Judy Onofrio: Big Catch, 1996
Scultpure of sea creatures intertwined
Judy Onofrio
Big Catch, 1996  
Ceramic, wood, shell, glass, paint, and metal,   74 x 34 ½ x 27 ½   inches


Judy Onofrio collects junk, garage sale treasures, and natural specimens, then reassembles them into fantastic sculptures like Big Catch. Pop can tabs and bottle caps become scales for a giant fish. Shiny white nail heads become scales for a snake. Shells become flowers on a magical underwater plant. These small objects tell a story of transformation, of possessions changing hands and status, and of the shift from junk to art. Onofrio’s careful placement of these fragments creates a jeweled surface that is like an intricate puzzle. In the twentieth century, many artists used objects from everyday life, or “found objects,” as materials for their art. These artists are telling new stories through America’s material culture, while giving us a new understanding of these objects. Onofrio’s assemblage of bottle caps, pop can tabs, knick-knacks, paperweights, and old broken china celebrates the common souvenirs of life, recognizing their value—and artistic potential.


Born in Connecticut in 1939 and now living and working in Rochester, Minnesota, Judy Onofrio creates art that is filled with fantasy and exuberance. She draws her inspiration from Folk Art, often called “outsider art,” acknowledging artists who feel compelled to express themselves but have had no formal art training. She also credits her great aunt Trude, whom she remembers from childhood as a wonderfully eccentric free spirit.

Though Onofrio would describe her work as essentially narrative in character, there is rarely a single story or simple meaning behind her complex forms. Her process begins with a narrative, often based on her personal life experience. By creating art with objects collected from flea markets, garage sales, and other random sources, Onofrio tells tales of utopian wishes, seduction, duality, and temptation. Through the found objects from which it is made, each sculpture has a nostalgic quality, one that is repurposed to tell new stories.