Visual Arts: ‘Art is my life,’ says octogenarian painter

Visual Arts: ‘Art is my life,’ says octogenarian painter

Judy Targan with a work in progress at her South Orange studio.
Judy Targan with a work in progress at her South Orange studio.

Recalling her classmates at the Walden School, which was considered “the most progressive private school in Manhattan,” Judy Targan said, “There were 24 guitars and one paintbrush. The paintbrush was me.”

From the age of 1, when she began coloring with crayons, until now, at 86, art has been her single-minded passion.

“I have loved art and done art for my entire life,” she told NJJN while seated on a stool in her brightly sunlit studio on a cul de sac in South Orange. In her youth, she said, “My idea of a good date was to go to the Museum of Modern Art. It was like a home to me.”

After graduating from Smith College, where she serves on its museum board, she married Ronald Targan, who grew up in Atlantic City and is now a retired attorney. “Before that time, I had never been to New Jersey,” she confessed. The couple has two children, Amy and Adam, and five grandchildren.

As an adult artist, Targan began working as a printmaker, and many of her works were sold to corporate offices. “Then, times began to change,” she said. “Fine arts prints were becoming much more expensive and poster galleries were buying less from me.”

That propelled her 30 years ago to begin a transition to painting on paper, then later to creating 12-inch-square paintings in oil on birch plywood.

She spends every day painting, she said, and estimates she has produced thousands of prints and pictures; many of them have been catalogued in photo albums filled with Polaroids.

Judy Targan displays a print advertising Cobble Gardens in London. Photos by Robert Wiener

Her current work is predominated by brightly colored images of nature, many with oval, triangular, and conical geometric patterns. Surrealistic gestures, such as tree branches hovering over the moon and palm fronds approaching the sun, figure in many works. A white dove flies over many of her landscapes.

Targan said that she is “very proud” to be culturally Jewish. Her family “never belonged to a temple in New York, and every Friday I went square dancing at the Ethical Cultural Society.”

These days she is a member of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, which commissioned “Peace Prayer,” one of her printmaking jobs. She has also had two shows at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills as part of her broad outreach to the local arts community and beyond.

Targan was a founder of the Maplewood-South Orange Artists Studio, which has sponsored an open house during the first week in June for the past 14 years. She also welcomes to her home art lovers and prospective buyers, who can contact her at

Fifty years after graduating from Smith, Targan submitted an update on her life to an alumni yearbook. Her page consisted of a list: “Creating art. Studying art. Looking at art. Talking about art. Advising on art. Collecting art. Supporting art. Living with art.”

Targan has engaged in other activities. She used to play tennis and has taken up golf, “which I never thought I would like,” but, she added, “my greatest pleasure is to be in my studio.”

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