Painter and collage artist Cree Scudder moved to Vero Beach in 2017, after a 38-year stay in La Jolla, California via Princeton, NJ, where she met her husband, Ned Scudder.
Raised in Coconut Grove, Florida, Cree attended prep school through 12th grade at Ransom Everglades School in Miami where, as an engaging girl with a broad smile and a creative bent, her high school artistic endeavors involved , as she puts it, “poster design, things like that.”
When it came time to go to college, Cree was to attend her father’s alma mater, the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Smiling, she remembers her father’s decree: “I think this will be a good place for you, Cri.
However, when Cree suggested she wanted to study art at UF, her father refused.
“Dad said, absolutely not! You go into business.
The cry has a strong tendency to pragmatism; to please herself and please her father, she opted for a BS in journalism. The outgoing Scudder decided that with her tendency to “get involved in things”, her journalism degree would give her access to the interesting people, places and events that lay ahead.
By the time she graduated in 1974, her mother had remarried and was living in Princeton. She invited her daughter over to “look around,” Cree says.
Cree soon got a job at the press office of the McCarter Theater on the campus of Princeton University, where she met Ned Scudder, who knew a lot about journalism himself.
Ned’s paternal great-grandfather founded the Newark Evening News in 1883, and his father and uncle ran the newspaper until it was sold in 1970.
When Cree fell in love with him, Ned was founding a brand new magazine, New Jersey Monthly, with three other Princeton graduates.
It was in 1976; the couple married two years later. Four years into the marriage, Cree had the opportunity to own and manage Optima Typesetting Inc., a typesetting and graphic design business near Kingston, NJ, which she says was the real start of his artistic training.
“Ours was a studio that had keyboard operators. This was before you had the ability to run anything on a computer. You had to do some typing and proofreading, graphic design and editing, and then ship the galleys to the client,” says Cree.
His clients were companies that published annual reports, advertising brochures and catalogs.
“I didn’t paint, but from a creative point of view, I learned that there is a certain amount of artistic knowledge in composition,” she says. “It was good training for when I started painting, years later.”
After 14 years in the business, the Scudders moved lock, stock and barrel to La Jolla, where the next phase of Cree arts education began. She took some art classes at the nearby University of California, San Diego, and also studied with professional artists in other places.
“I did everything I could to get as much exposure as possible to discover the art,” she says.
Cree and Ned became involved members of the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and the Stuart Collection – an outdoor collection of contemporary sculpture on the UC San Diego campus, participating in as many programs, lectures and exhibitions as possible.
They also began collecting art from Californian artists they met, including Manny Farber (1917-2008), Philip Petrie and Reed Cardwell (1955-2013). The latter, who had studied with Nathan Oliveira, became Cree’s mentor.
“Reed inspired me. He said, ‘Scream, you gotta keep going. You know you can do it. He was talking to me, and instructors don’t really talk to their students, in my experience.
Cardwell’s paintings are prominently displayed in the couple’s living room, among many other beloved works of art the Scudders have collected in unison. “We are very careful about what we want to buy. It has to be something we really feel we need,” she says.
There is a lot of art to see in their house. Although paintings and three-dimensional works of art live close to each other, it is a harmonious family. A visiting art lover feels entirely at home and would be content to tour the collection for hours, with Cree as an enthusiastic guide for each piece.
Surrounded by the works of others, Cree is continually inspired to up her own artistic game.
“You think, well, I could try to do that. It won’t be the same, but I can do it however I want. »
After 38 years in California, the Scudders returned home to Vero Beach, considered by the Crees to be his second childhood home.
“Both of my grandparents, on my dad’s McDougal side and on my mom’s Dodge side, had homes here in Vero Beach. My mom and dad each came home from college in Vero and met here. It was our life,” she says, adding that she and her siblings have spent many vacations here.
Ned, however, had no such memories of life in Florida and relied on Cree for the good intuition to move here. “I just assumed everything would be fine. It was wonderful. My sister is there too,” she said.
“Our neighbor in Coconut Grove lives on the water; she and my sister are best friends. We have this little enclave here.
Vero welcomed Cree with open arms. As an artist, she has exhibited in group and individual exhibitions with the Vero Beach Art Club. At the time of writing, she was preparing to deliver her entry to AVAC’s “Art by the Sea” exhibit at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, and two other works were in the framer for display at the annex and at the AVAC gallery on 14th street.
Cree has exhibited at Raw Space and the Environmental Learning Center, and the clubhouse gallery at Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club has also been a venue for her work. In 2020, Cree cast his net further; that year his work was accepted for the 34th Annual All Florida Jury Exhibition in Fort Myers.
Partly to dodge Florida’s hurricane season, the couple escape each summer to upstate New York. This summer, Cree’s work will be part of a three-person exhibition at Saranac Lake’s Blu Seed Gallery, which has featured her work for several years.
Currently, Cree works in collage, a mode and medium informed by her ability to compose on rectangles and squares at the time in her composition business. The quality of her work, the pieces of paper neatly glued to paper, canvas or cardboard backings, pays homage to the hours she spent doing collage long ago.
Instead of blocks of type, however, there are arrangements of quadrangles of cut paper in a myriad of colors and layered patterns, textures and thicknesses aplenty. In his geometric abstractions, Cree is careful to leave negative space between his cut-out shapes to give the eye enough room to wander through them. Some of his compositions are complex; others, especially the small squares, are more sober.
“I don’t want a single element to take over the collage. I have to be sensitive to that. I like to put weird things in my compositions, like a paint sample from the paint store. I just keep exploring.
Referring to two freshly framed 12-inch square collages on cradled hardboard that are slated for display at a brand new gallery in Lake Placid, she says, “These are my favorites. They are what I want to be: to be colorful, alive and thoughtful.
Pictures of Kaila Jones