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The Monster From Within or How I Became an Artist

22 Dec 2022 10:57 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)

This story relates a memorable experience at Ghost Ranch by NMPCA member, Judy Nelson-Moore.

By Judy Nelson-Moore                 12/11/2022

Born and living in Denver, Colorado, I worked with clay since high school in 1964, progressing from what I now call my “early functional period” through non-functional, decorative ware, into sculptural work.  Simultaneously, as ever the practical and “driven” person, I also pursued a career in computers, ending up with a wonderful situation of independent consulting for larger companies, helping them with their Human Resources/Payroll mainframe systems.  I did and still do feel that the two contrasting careers, computer software and ceramic art were complementary, helping to balance myself, my finances, and my emotional development.  However, I often struggled to maintain both.  

Figure 1: Rudy Autio, "Astarte"

By the mid-1980’s I needed to do more with my ceramic art.  I had attended workshops with many worthy ceramic artists finding their ideas and thoughts even more valuable than their clay techniques.  I began to pursue a study of Jungian thought and mythology with Steve Gallegos and other practitioners with active imagination sessions.  I was amazed at the adventures and insights I could discover through these sessions. 

In about 1984, inspired by mythology, I made a black Halloween costume with a large stuffed head that I called the “Monster from Within” (shown below with a friend wearing a witch costume). 

Figure 2: "Monster from Within"

Then, in 1985, I attended a NMPCA workshop at Ghost Ranch.  The presenting artist was Rudio Autio.  Rudy was still teaching at the University of Montana.  It was a significant coup for the NMPCA to obtain him as a presenter.  I remember Jim Kempes was the Ranch coordinator at the time, and my friend Grett Friedman and I cemented our friendship started during previous workshops, and the interaction with others was significant.  The environment at the ranch, as usual, lent itself to inner reflection and immersion in the creative process.  During the workshop, I took a walk up to Chimney Rock and other areas around the ranch searching for an animal guide, like the guides I had met in my active imagination sessions.  I was disappointed that the only animal I found was a lizard, but I did the best I could in a conversation in my mind with this lizard.  While working on a piece guided by Rudy’s way of working, and listening to him talk about his journey, ideas and life, something began to emerge under my hands.

Figure 3: Work in Progress, Pot Hollow, Ghost Ranch

There was a monster drawn on one side of my large vessel and a lizard on the other.  When applying the colors, I made the monster white.  I called the piece "The Ghost Ranch Lizard Meets the Monster From Within." The experience of Ghost Ranch had transformed the black monster to white!  The transformation of my inner thoughts and emotions was reflective of these color changes. 

During the workshop, Rudy walked around the work area, talking to each of us, and giving us suggestions and ideas in his gentle, perceptive way.  The main comment I remember was that I should do more drawing (duh…later when I really looked at the way the monster and lizard had been drawn, I knew exactly why he said that!).  The entire experience of working with Rudy at the Ranch during this critical period of my development achieved a transformation in my mind about my creative efforts.  Prior to that workshop, I hesitated to think of myself as an artist.  After the workshop, I felt comfortable calling myself an artist.   It was a transition that enabled me to move forward, applying the skills and techniques I had learned from workshops and classes, and expressing my own vision in clay. 

To this day, I keep “The Monster from Within….” As a reminder of my transition.  Also, to this day, I remain committed to supporting and participating in the Ghost Ranch ceramic arts program so that others can continue to have transformative experiences.  

--Judy Nelson-Moore

The experiences of coming to Ghost Ranch for many workshops, the friendships developed there, and the transformation of my thinking ultimately led my husband and I to move from Denver to Santa Fe in 1992 and my long and happy association with NMPCA and Ghost Ranch.  I retired from computer consulting in 2004 but continue to pursue my career in ceramic art.  

Figure 4: "The Ghost Ranch Lizard Meets the Monster from Within" by Judy Nelson-Moore, 1985, photographed in 2022  


  • 22 Dec 2022 11:29 AM | Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (Administrator)
    Judy - thanks for sharing this story of your progression with expression ---- I always love how you tap into the mystical, and this process will shine out for me.
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    • 25 Jan 2023 8:41 AM | Anna Bush Crews
      Thank you Judy. Ghost Ranch is such a magical place and how great that it brought you here to New Mexico and inspired you to continue on your journey.
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