The Silent Revolutionary: an interview with Judy Ann Seidman

by Sipho Mdanda

Judy Ann Seidman is a visual artist and cultural activist with a long history of producing politically and socially engaged work. Born in the USA in 1951, she moved with her parents to newly independent Ghana and subsequently lived most of her life in the frontline states, before moving to South Africa in 1990.

Sipho Mdanda: What are your earliest memories of encounters with art and art-making and how old were you when you decided to be an artist, if that is your preferred title?

Judy Ann Seidman: My grandmother was an artist, a life-long political activist, feminist and pacifist.  So I was brought up with art-making, particularly art-making as an act of political activism. When I was five or six, I announced that I wanted to be a painter or a pirate (pirate was not a practical career choice, of course).

SM: What artists did you look to for inspiration?

JAS: Early influences were my grandmother’s work, then the drawings of German artist Kathe Kollwitz when I was around 8 or 9. I was overwhelmed by the work of Mexican muralists (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros) which we saw on a trip to Mexico when I was 10. At that time, Frida Khalo was not known as one of the group — a major act of gender discrimination in art history. I only became aware of her work when she was “discovered” in the late 1960s. 

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