COVER STORY

Drawing Strength: Artist creates at prolific rate, despite deteriorating health

Continuing her decade-long battle with meningitis, Jordie Hudson declares ‘I will never stop making art’

Jordie Hudson with one of her shrines.
Walter Coker
Jordie Hudson appears with some of her work.
Walter Coker
Jordie Hudson works on a large canvas prepared with, among other items, a smashed beverage can, a mini Etch-A-Sketch, a Hello Kitty Band-Aid container, a classic image of Wonder Woman and a rubber duck. She named it “Once I Was a Punk Rocker.”
Walter Coker
Joride Hudson slumps in a chair in her mom’s kitchen. She struggles to light a cigarette. Her doctor has advised her not to stop smoking, because it calms and stabilizes her.
Walter Coker
An army of bottles litters a small table — 12 or 14 prescriptions — a regimen that has conspired with the meningitis to wear down Jordie Hudson.
Walter Coker
Jordie Hudson appears in a photo from about 10 years ago.
Provided by Jordie Hudson
Jordie Hudson with one of her shrines.
Walter Coker
"Battered Bunny" by Jordie Hudson
Walter Coker
If there is one piece that embodies Jordie Hudson’s affinity for awkwardness, it’s “Ugly Teddy Bear.” She painted over one of her mother’s pieces to create a big, roly-poly, ugly teddy bear. From the bear’s mouth, two dingy, half-smoked cigarette butts protrude at an awkward angle. Hudson says her mother hates it.
Walter Coker
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This story will break your heart.

It will leave you contemplating mortality and the meaning of suffering. It will plumb the depths of the human spirit and the parent/child bond. And it will ask, a number of times, that age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

But Jordie Hudson doesn’t care about that schmaltzy nonsense. Though she is in what seems to be the closing chapter of a decade-long battle with meningitis, though her head and face are plagued with tumors, though her body has been ravaged by heavy doses of medication, she doesn’t want your pity. What Hudson wants you to know is that, in the throes of her illness, she is still making art. Big, bold, powerful art.

It’s just after 9 on a chilly November morning. The sky is clear and blue, and Lincolnville, that sleepy little St. Augustine village, is pleasantly silent. A blue jay squawks, a scooter zips by, but it’s mostly silent.

In the kitchen of a white two-story in the heart of Lincolnville, a different kind of silence falls. There, in a chair in her mom’s knickknack-laden kitchen, slumps Hudson. Eyes narrowed, shoulders hunched, head drooping, she lists to her right as she does her best to compose a few sentences. An army of prescription bottles litters a small table, their contents only partially responsible for her languorous state.

Hudson’s mother, diminutive but wide-eyed and energetic Judy Allen, says, “Jordie didn’t sleep at all last night.” She says Hudson fell a half-dozen times — probably more — during the restless evening.

Hudson is struggling to piece together her past, half-slurring, half-mumbling about her time at art schools in North Carolina and Boston. It’s a fuzzy chronology, a crazy-quilt of anecdotes about her devoted yet sexually abusive father, her gay and physically abusive art instructor, her careers as performance artist, model and visual artist. Then, as if a shroud has been lifted, she says with clarity and strength, “You can be as handicapped as you wanna be, and you can still draw like a motherfucker.”

And there, in one direct statement, resides the soul of Jordie Hudson.


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Tags: art, st. augustine,
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