Judith Godwin was inspired by dance

Sarah Eckhart

Sarah Eckhart, VMFA Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Robbie Kinter, Music Director for the Department of Dance and Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University.

As I listened to Dr. Sarah Eckhart, the Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Robbie Kinter, from VCU’s Department of Dance and Choreography, discussing the relationship between modern dance and Judith Godwin’s paintings, I felt a real connection with Ms. Godwin. Sarah and Robbie made her come alive just like her oversized canvases.  I had not considered the relationship between abstract art and modern dance, but it was obvious and made perfect sense, especially when Mr. Kinter and his dance partner/instructor, Frances Wessels, demonstrated through dance improvisation. It was a very powerful experience, to participate in a little improvisation myself.  I loved the feeling of moving in the gallery with such inspirational art surrounding me and influencing my movements. To my surprise Judith Godwin had been listening to the talk the whole time, and I was lucky enough to meet her. I loved her words of wisdom and inspiration, and I could not have asked for a more exciting learning experience at the VMFA last Friday!

Katherine Maloney, Senior at St. Catherine’s School

As a dance teacher and choreographer, I seek inspiration from other art forms and I encourage my students at St. Catherine’s School to do the same.  I constantly stress the importance of process with the hope that my students will come to enjoy the journey of creation and learn to recognize that which truly inspires them.

My student, Katherine Maloney, is both a visual artist and innovative choreographer. I thought of Katherine when reading about the Judith Godwin Exhibition at VMFA.  Ms. Godwin wasn’t a dancer herself, yet her source of inspiration was movement. I wanted Katherine, who is blessed with multiple, artistic talents, to have an experience that would allow her to see the creative potential in her gifts and to understand the connections between them.  Naturally, I was thrilled that VMFA devoted last Friday’s “conversation” to Ms. Godwin’s work and the significant influence of dance on her gestural painting style. Not knowing quite what to expect, I asked Katherine to join me for a new experience.

dance students

Students are inspired by Judith Godwin’s art. 
Photos: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

I could tell that Katherine was immediately drawn into the discussion and I could sense her eyeing Ms. Godwin’s large canvases, sorting through the designs and, knowing Katherine, probably creating movement in her head.  I think that we both felt a need to move with those paintings and yet when the opportunity arose, I hesitated.  At 37 years old, I have danced before many audiences, in all types of venues yet I suddenly felt self-conscious.   There was my 17year old student, however, ready to jump up and move.  Fortunately there came one more opportunity and this time we were both ready. Together, we improvised in a crowded gallery, translating, through movement, the dynamics and layers of a magnificent painting.  It was a powerful experience and when we learned that Judith Godwin, herself was actually a part of the audience we were both quite humbled.  For just a few moments Katherine and I became part of Ms. Godwin’s work and hopefully, in those moments, we also allowed someone else to view her work in a different way.

As Katherine writes below, she did indeed have a meaningful learning experience that will inspire her moving forward.  In addition to the great surprise of meeting Judith Godwin, it was also a great honor to introduce Katherine to my greatly admired fellow dancer, Robbie Kinter, and the ever amazing Frances Wessels, whose influence on the Richmond dance community has been profound and lasting.

Kendall Neely
Arts Coordinator
Department Chair of Theatre and Dance
St. Catherine’s School