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A Happy Place

The Art of Judith Henriques-Adams Comes Full Circle 

There is a time in a woman’s life when she has risen to her full power. It is reflected in her energy, her home, her countenance, and especially in her art, a time as Judith Henriques-Adams calls it “to do me.” 

Artist Henriques-Adams is leaning into her creativity, enjoying not only time for her painting but a new light-filled studio recently added onto her Sag Harbor home she shares with her husband Robert. “It is just big enough and I am just neat enough,” she says of her new lair with a smile.

Judith Henriques-Adams in her home studio.

She first came to Sag Harbor “in utero” and having spent time at relatives’ houses over the years found her own oasis in 1998. “Sag Harbor has a very warm black community and that was important to us having been raised in a white environment,” she comments, “It’s like an instant family and common experiences.”

Henriques-Adams made the move from the city after spending twenty-six years as an art teacher in both the Netherlands and New Jersey teaching numerous disciplines to different grades while raising her son as a single mom. “I didn’t have a moment in my entire time of teaching to really do my art emotionally or economically,” she explains, adding with a laugh, “I am pretty practical. Having dental and medical insurance was important.” 

Educated at Howard University School of Fine Arts, The Pratt Institute, as well as graduate school at The Bank Street School, Parson’s School of Design and Truro College, Henriques-Adams shared with her students not only her technical knowledge but emotional understanding. Her years just after college as a flight attendant at Pan Am also added wisdom from traveling the world. “The job as a teacher is to build self-esteem and to expose students, to give them artistic literacy to feel comfortable,” she explains. “Feeling good about yourself as a human being is more important than if you have one point perspective.”

With time and space Henriques-Adams can now explore numerous different influences in her own paintings. “My ideas almost always happen in twilight when I’m sleeping. It may be a certain design or shape – but then it has to resonate.” She also adheres to one of her teaching principles, namely perspective. “I need to put some distance between myself and my work, to turn away and then go back and look. I used to lug canvases downstairs but now I can just take a picture on my phone and look at it at different times.”

Indeed Henriques-Adams’ work is complex and can be appreciated from different perspectives. With a love of writing and even calligraphy, what appears as a beautiful abstract with gold or silver leaf which shimmers in the light as the sun rises or sets, is actually a series of phrases. With a unique gift to write backwards or upside down, her beautiful works contain, “I will always be there for you. You will never be alone. I will be the candle in your window to help you find your way home,” or “I am because we are,” or “Kindness begins where necessity ends.” One couple buying a painting to celebrate their 60th anniversary chose one which says, “I love the way you love me.”

While there is much of her emotion in her pieces, she encourages viewers to ask themselves how the pieces make them feel. Some elicit a calming sort of feeling like from an Ella Fitzgerald ballad or others the imbalance of a Miles Davis jazz improv. But for the moment Henriques-Adams is completely in tune with herself, sharing her work with an appreciative audience. It is a proficient chapter she hopes will last. “I’d better live a long time,” she says with a smile.