Judith A. Brust, M.A.’94, M.F.A.’98
By Carol Olechowski
When Judy Brust was studying art at the University at Albany, a classmate dubbed her “Nature Girl.” The nickname still fits: Her creations are often inspired by the wildlife she’s seen in her travels.
Brust has seen a great deal of the world since her days at Pennsylvania State University, where she first studied to become a hospital dietician, then an interior designer, before turning to art education in her junior year. She and her husband, Robert, met and married in college and settled into a busy life together as Bob’s executive career with General Electric – and later, with Unisys, Sprint and Kodak – took the couple and their three children to Philadelphia; Rochester, N.Y.; and Pittsfield, Mass. Judy, who raised their family while substitute teaching and giving lessons at home, sometimes thought about attending graduate school, “but there was never time.” Her mother’s passing and Brust’s consequent reflections on death, however, “gave me the impulse to continue my education.”
While the family was living in Pittsfield, Brust made her first move toward earning a graduate degree. She visited UAlbany and met Professor of Art Edward Mayer, audited his beginning classes, then applied for admission to the M.A. program.
Like Mayer, Professor Roberta Bernstein was “a wonderful help” to Brust, who would tape the art historian’s lectures to replay during the commute home. Brust also enjoyed the Visiting Artists Program, which brought “six or eight lecturers to campus every year. It was extraordinary to meet the people you study and then go to see their work in museums.”
At UAlbany, where Brust later earned her M.F.A., the painter and printmaker expanded her repertoire to include sculpture. She also learned “what I really wanted to say in my art. I love working hands-on with objects and materials and textures.”
Away from the studio at her home in Nantucket, Brust enjoys observing the wild creatures that inspire much of her work. During a vacation in Tanzania a few years ago, she watched wildebeests at play and saw “a lake pink with flamingoes” – visual elements she later incorporated into prints.
Her artistic mastery is evident in several pieces displayed at the Mandarin Oriental Boston. Brust’s mixed-media Life Line #3 is at center stage behind the reception desk; six other works hold places of honor throughout the luxury hotel. “It’s a beautiful building, and to see them in that space is just so nice,” she said.
Grateful for her experience at UAlbany, Brust has set up an endowment to fund a yearly scholarship for an art student. “It’s amazing to me how much that period of time affected my life,” she observed. “Everyone should have that experience.”