Judy Wold, Martha Wold Cornwall and Mary Wold Souza

By Angela Romeo

The High Desert is always a place to find provocative and compelling exhibitions. The location is stark beauty fraught with mystery and mysticism. Three Sisters: Off the Grid continues the tradition of art without fear.

The show opens on April 8 at Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG) with the work of family members Judy Wold, Martha Wold Cornwall and Mary Wold Souza. “Three Sisters: Off the Grid” explores the patterns, textures and meanings of the popular notion of “Grid.”  “The theme for our show sprang from a family weekend in the High Desert which followed our viewing the recent Agnes Martin exhibit at the LA County Museum,” says textile artist Martha Wold Cornwall of Berkeley. “The Grid concept is essential to both, so we kind of took it from there.”

Agnes Martin was an interesting figure in the art world. Born the same year as Jackson Pollack her style was no less a profound that the famous drip paintings. Martin’s seminal work was line and grids with fields of subtle color. She was a schizophrenic and fluctuated between life as a recluse and life in the spot life. She famously sated “beauty is unattached, it’s inspiration – it’s inspiration”.


 In April, Martin’s work will also be featured in Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. That exhibition features the work of women artists who worked post World War II and before the start of the Feminist movement.

So what about Grids and Martin inspired these three women? To Judy Wold the answer is a shared collective drive.  “We are three women who have had to work for a living and are lucky to have supportive partners. We raised children and are enjoying grandchildren. We accomplished all this while making art!  This gives us a common perspective on how difficult and crucial the process of making art is to our lives.”

“I began in ceramics. I switched to painting and fell in love with oil paint.  The second generation of Bay Area figurative painters used oil paint with lush colors and texture.  It led me to the tradition of still life and expressing my personal life and inner thoughts and images.  Martha and I work in different mediums but share the love of the grid, circles and squares and using what I call ‘odd colors,’” said Judy.

But what about those grids?  Textile artist Martha noted, “Judy and I use marks that relate to each other, grids, blocks of color, and circles and dots. Mary talks about her work being ‘off the grid’…I wonder if she is just way deeper inside those same circles and dots?”

“The Agnes Martin show definitely provided an ‘Ah Ha’ moment for me,” continued Martha. “My awareness of her work was limited before. Seeing that show came at a moment of growth and questioning in my own artmaking. The way in which her paintings invite the viewer to simply be, calm down, here’s life…well, she inspires me to try to create that sensation in my own work. Thank you, Agnes.”

For Mary her paintings begin with a grid. “I address the canvas directly, inscribing the syllables of a healing mantra in large calligraphic strokes of dripping indigo paint. The repetitive, rhythmic motion and sound, activates my body and quiets my mind as I turn inward and tune in to the vibrations and rhythms. I jump OFF the grid, responding to the energy and structure before me in an intuitive conversation with the work.  It’s as if the grid is a safety net allowing me to confidently jump high and freely.”

“The idea of having a show together formulated the day after my husband died in March 2016,” said Mary. “When Judy called with the news that JTAG was offering artists a month in 2017 for an exhibit. She said, ‘How about Three Sister’?’ This exhibit has been a beacon of hope for me through a year of grief and challenges, during which I did a lot of sitting in silence and contemplation. Meanwhile, my art has been there for me as a continuing source of optimism, transcendence, and renewal. And my sister artists have been a support to me in all these aspects of my life.  Art without fear — art offering hope.”

Three women joined by blood and marriage but bonded by art. 

JTAG is located at 61607B Twenty Nine Palms Highway and is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and S