Judy Nimtz, Venice Artist
Photographed and Interviewed by Debbie Zeitman
Venice Artists in their Studios
In May 2016 I came across a group of artists being forced from their studios. Their building was about to undergo renovations, and while the artists had been offered to return upon completion of construction, most could not due to the sudden increase in their rents. I asked to photograph & speak to them in their spaces before they left.
I have since made it my goal to photograph & interview as many of the remaining Venice artists as possible to capture this moment in time and to raise awareness of their plight and the changes in Venice for artists. The loss – our loss – is two-fold: the people & the unique spaces. I hope learning of their stories will inspire you to buy from local artists or even to offer to support them as patrons. Because Venice without artists & its art spaces will be a very different Venice.
In May 2017, I completed the first year of the project. These are some of the artists I have met and their stories, and the words shared here are from the time when I met the artists. Venice and the artists’ circumstances continue to evolve, and some of their situations have since changed, with a few having found new studios in Venice and others having moved away.
When I started photographing & interviewing the artists I didn’t know where I would take the project, but knew I had to leap immediately. At first the words I shared were brief, almost on par with captions. As the project is progressing, the time I spend with the artists is expanding, evident by how the stories have grown in length. However, since I feature this project on Instagram, the words remain concise, for Instagram has a strict word limit – a blessing and a curse.
But trust me, if you sit and speak with these intriguing individuals, you will discover how much more I could write.
– Debbie Zeitman
Venice resident since 1985
“I prefer to go somewhere to paint other than home. For several reasons. It’s hard for me to separate from what I need to do at home. Going to another location helps me with that.” When Judy first started painting in her garage studio, she shared it with her husband, Kenny Harris. Previously they had shared a studio at 361 Vernon Ave. As they saw the neighborhood beginning to change and the fact that their garage needed some repairs, they decided to renovate it anticipating Vernon wouldn’t last forever. While they got along as studio mates, Judy says their styles of working were different enough that they saw the benefits of having separate spaces, and Kenny eventually moved his studio into their neighbor’s garage.
“I like Venice a lot. It’s definitely changing. And things I liked about it are changing. I liked the rawness. It’s becoming shiny.” She says they used to hang out on Abbot Kinney, as did a lot of artists and locals. Then a lot of the regular spots started to disappear. “Now we just drive on it to see what’s changed.” Judy reflects upon the changes by looking back on her childhood in Hawaii and the developments that came to her community.
“Everything’s that old was once new.”
Debbie Zeitman notes that there is an air of change around Nimtz in many areas of her life right now. The gallery that represents her and her husband has moved from Culver City to Seattle, her husband has gone back to school, the changes in Venice.
“I think of it more as an exciting thing than a bad thing,” says Judy.
Debbie Zeitman has photographed over 50 Venice Artists and still counting. Fifteen artist portraits and stories are hanging at Wabi Venice (1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice). Her photographic life began as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press covering primarily sports. Now her eyes drift to life’s everyday rich details, whether tiny or grand. She also spends an extraordinary amount of time trying to capture the meaningful expressions of shelter dogs and cats in an attempt to get them to safety and into permanent homes. In addition, Debbie advocates for all animals and lives a vegan lifestyle.