Queens Chronicle

Sculptures from Judy Rifka's "Totems/Paintings in the Round" series, now on display at the Chocolate Factory.
-Kimberly Parris

Artist Judy Rifka is taking visitors on a vibrant journey through history and biology in her new exhibit at the Chocolate Factory, in Long Island City, this month.

Upon entering Rifka's exhibit, "Nostros," visitors are likely to be stunned by the mass of extraordinary colors surrounding them. To the left are painted linens featuring amoeba-like shapes swirling with color, which the artist calls "collages of biological technology."

On the right are towering "human-machine crossbreeds" - freestanding sculptures that are wrapped in painted linens, each depicting a different combination of human and mechanical parts. Take a closer look at these vibrant designs and you'll find myriad intricacies that reveal, in stunning detail, the careful hand of the artist who created them.

Rifka got her start as an artist while growing up in Brooklyn where, as a young girl, she always enjoyed art. Her love for art grew as she grew older, and soon, she was exploring a slew of artistic forms in hopes of learning as much as possible about various crafts. Rifka majored in art at the New York Studio School in Manhattan and, at age 19, decided to trek across Europe in order to absorb as much as she could about art history.

It was these experiences - as a child, then a student, then a world traveler - that shaped her current work as an adult.

"One of the interesting things I picked up along the way in Europe is the story of Otik," she said, referring to a Czech folk story about a couple who cannot conceive. After much effort, they are finally able to have a baby, but soon realize the child is only part human. It was this dark tale that inspired her to sculpt a tall, hulking figure named Otik.
Other historical pieces in Rifka's exhibit include sculptures depicting an ancient Egyptian mummification. Another sculpture offers a sobering commentary on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - vividly portraying the Twin Towers at the moment they are struck by planes. "From my studio, I was able to see the attacks as they were happening," Rifka recalled. "Through the abstract depiction of tragedy, the picture was my therapy."

Rifka notes that she works with her art history students at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. to aid them in putting their feelings and thoughts onto canvas. She also has a studio in Hoboken, although she currently resides in the Chinatown section of Manhattan.