• 1 Bridge to Nowhere in a Show

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 01-09-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

         “Happy Little Bridge to Nowhere” was accepted into an online show at UCSB. This painting is still relevant and looks like it will be still for a while as Covid tears through California. Life has become simplified as the daily routine of reading the newspaper, taking care of my pets and working out seems to consume vast amounts of my time. But soon I’ll be back in my LA studio and will be attempting to get back into the swing of painting. It’s been nice to have had a pause from the soot and stress of LA, but September is tomorrow and for me, it’s always been a month where I’m motivated to hustle and get to work. Painting is a muscle that needs to be kept strong: if you let it go slack, the inner voice of self-criticism is loud, cutting and nasty. But this time out of self-care has been good for me and I’m feeling robust enough to ward off -or go to battle with- various inner demons talking smack. ;) EEH   

  • 2 Cactus Wrangler

    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 16-08-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    Hello all,     I have been quite chuffed to be working hard in my garden. For a girl from Saskatoon, the learning curve when trying to figure out cacti was high. For instance- I know now to use metal tongs to deal with "murder cactus" and definitely wore goggles when dealing with the firestick (which can cause blindness). It is exhausting work to get them into this hard, sandy ground- but therapeutic. Though today it was quite clear that I would end up with heatstroke if I didn't retire...my hoe came down with less and less force as I scratched the ground uselessly.     Maybe at the end of the pandemic I'll have an impressive garden.      

  • 1 August

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 10-08-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    It's August already. My cacti are bursting forth in massive flowers that show their loveliness during the evening for one night only. It is poetic and darling. Even the smallest of cacti have the most massive of blooms. I grew them all from cuttings I saved from a San Diego farm that was about to be bulldozed and others were from friends. I have such an affinity for them. Prickly and hard to handle yet so sweet. I can relate.  I may transplant a bunch of them from pots into a strip of land in My front yard. Here's a picture of one. The front camera in my phone broke so I had to do a selfie and nearly sat on a cactus in the process. The adventures continue.

  • 1 Feeling blissful

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 24-07-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

        I've been blissed out lately and taking a break from painting. Instead, I've spent hours doing something that I really love- but haven't had the chance to for ages, making necklaces. Here is a talisman against the Covid. It's made from carved bone (note the skulls), corral, silver African beads, glass and other beads that feel really good against the skin. It's a physically heavy piece- but then again, you'll want to practice getting a strong neck these days.     The idea is that the Covid gets confused by the three strands (three being a special number) and is expelled and/or killed by the necklace. You have to believe in it for it to work (and also wash your hands, wear a mask and quarantine). Worth a shot.

  • 0 Shipwrecks and Soul mates

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 15-07-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

     I love this piece. It’s a rare peaceful and tranquil painting and I’m surprised that it hasn’t sold- yet, (though I may like to keep it for myself). Different themes surface for me. For a while it was planes, (after 9/11), then it was snakes (I have no idea why) and then as in this painting- floating eggs/rocks/boulders. I think of them as a surrogate for the self. And in this painting, they represent relationships- how our connections drift towards and away from people. I love the title. I don’t know where it came from but it arrived as I was working on it. Perhaps it’s because -lol- people fall in two categories for me: a complete disaster or a perfect fit. In any case… wouldn’t this look lovely above your couch? ;)  

  • 1 Need to come up with a third painting

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 30-06-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    I’ve realized that I need to do another painting in my series- one that is less about systemic racism and police brutality and more about the historic, heroic resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t usually plan out my paintings but will begin mining photos for ideas. I love this image of Iesha Evans. I welcome any image contributions.

  • 1 Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889- James Ensor 1888

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 30-06-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    I've always liked this quirky painting by James Ensor and the straight-forward way he paints. I've seen it several times at the Getty. I don't know if this image might good be a good one to ruminate on for the next BLM movement inspired painting I'm thinking about painting- one could go cross-eyed with so many faces. I have a few option for canvases: 76"x 76" square or a 4' x 10' long canvas that might also be good for showing the protest crowds... What do you think?

  • 0 Reworking Strange Fruit

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 28-06-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    I couldn’t stop working on “Strange Fruit”.  The formal aspects of the piece weren’t sitting right with me. The yellow was garish and suddenly didn’t make sense.  And people didn’t understand the third leg in the middle- my take on it was that the figure was spinning in air and so therefore it looked as if there were more legs and besides- it’s supposed to be strange. But my critic friends kept up bringing up “third leg” as a sexual reference I was unaware of related to dick size.  I wanted to avoid that confusion.  If you think about dead weight, it’s heavy. It doesn’t spin. It was my favorite part in the painting, but as my favorite Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Kit White advised early on, sometimes you have to destroy your favorite part of a piece in order to make it work.  Nothing is too precious to be destroyed, so I eliminated the leg with a slight echo of it below to indicate animation of the feet. I think that part works better now.      But then what to do with the background? I tried to imagine what foliage in the South looks like: heavy underbrush maybe and Spanish moss hanging in big leafy trees.  Perhaps an unruly crowd/mob at the bottom - but just in the abstract. There should be more of a reference to things hanging down. I painted out the yellow and replaced it with a Payne’s gray mixed with warm gray but let peeps of yellow come through for light and alluded to trunks and branches.      I dragged the painting outside and my artist friend Theodore Svenningsen came over for another crit- he likes it better.  I do too- but another friend couldn’t even see the figures at first- only the negative space in the background and someone else saw the background instead as ghostly images. One friend said her favorite part was the third leg and another preferred it yellow. Anyway, I’m finished with it now. I put it in the racks and am going to leave it alone. Sometimes when you overwork something the emotion can be lost.             I hope that I am conveying how seriously I take the unspeakable lynching incident and the Black Lives Matter movement.  As you may be able to tell, I was feeling a little insecure about the piece but a friend reassured me that “the forces for ending white racism need to move beyond African Americans and white lefties. At some point all minority groups need allies and white and black radicals have united before. It’s high time that white people speak up and against white racism”.

  • 2 Strange Fruit- the art of protest

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 24-06-2020
    5.00 of 2 votes

    A new piece: “Strange Fruit”, oil paint on linen, 76” x 76”, June 2020.  The title refers the lynching deaths of Abraham Smith, Thomas Shipp and James Cameron in Indiana in August 7th, 1930. In retribution for the killing of a white man and supposed assault of his girlfriend, a mob broke into a jailhouse and beat to death and hung the three black men. Abel Meeropol, a Jewish communist teacher and civil rights activist from the Bronx, had seen a picture of their lynching and carnival of white supremacy and wrote the poem as a form of political protest, which he later turned into a song.    Southern trees bear a strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the rootBlack bodies swinging in the southern breezeStrange fruit hanging from the poplar trees Pastoral scene of the gallant SouthThe bulging eyes and the twisted mouthScent of magnolia, sweet and freshThen the sudden smell of burning flesh Here is a fruit for the crows to pluckFor the rain to gather, for the wind to suckFor the sun to rot, for the tree to dropHere is a strange and bitter crop    In the 1940’s African American jazz singer Billie Holiday made it famous not just as a song, but as a work of art.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Web007rzSOI   Holiday’s father had been turned away from life-saving treatment at the hospital, because he was black, and consequently died.  She sang the song to close her shows and exited while the stage was black with no following encores as a commemoration to her father and as a protest against racism. Those in support of civil rights were very supportive while other patrons vehemently opposed the song. One of those hostile to Holiday’s boldness and intent on wanting to keep blacks "in their place", was racist Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry Anslinger.   Anslinger wanted to crush Holiday’s career as he believed jazz was the “devil’s music” and encouraged drug abuse. He forbid her to perform the song, and knowing she was a drug user, set up a sting operation which entrapped her into purchasing heroin when she persisted in singing the song. She was sent to jail for a year and a half and upon release was denied a license to perform in cabarets. She was still able to sell out some venues but lapsed back into heavy drug abuse. When her health failed on multiple levels, she checked herself into the hospital. However, Anslinger was still bent on her destruction and had her handcuffed to the bed and forbid doctors from treating her illness. Like her father, she died days later.  It is some consolation that Time named Strange Fruit the Song of the Century in 1999. Holiday was treated with the dignity she deserved and posthumously awarded 23 Grammy’s and inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. Why did I paint this?  A shrink I once saw recommended that I should never defend myself, and just listen. Clearly, this is an area fraught with tension and I am sensitive to the disgusting nature of the content. Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till at the Whitney created such controversy and pain that it was removed and some might say that as a white woman, I have no right to paint such a topic. This is a very disturbing time in the country and as a member of this society, I am affected by what is happening. Sociologist Marshall McLuhan said “You cannot not communicate.”  As an artist, I filter what I see, feel and think about from events in my own life and the world around me. I am a depressive. I was/am devastated by the death of George Floyd and by police abuse of power and systemic racism.  We are surrounded by death tally’s daily now- with Corona virus spikes and death rates going up constantly. Like Leon Golub’s politically critical work, I express my own outrage over present day versions of lynching while at the same time offering my support for a bold outspoken woman- Billie Holiday. While she sang this song in the 40’s, the same issues still persist. This painting is open to interpretation of course. I’m not a figure painter, but one more like in the tradition of Ben Shahn with clunky characters and awkward poses. Like my big yellow painting, “My Addictions”, I focus on feet and legs. One character is clearly black, one has three legs and one is red- maybe flayed, maybe not. The yellow and reddish color paint strokes indicate an up and down movement. Their feet are misshapen and club-like. They could be dancing and jumping- they could be on their tip toes, they could be hanging and twisting in a death grip.  Aside from the title, it is unspecific. I refer to my work as abstract representational. What you see is who you are. Maybe they're jumping from hell into heaven. Ultimately, I hope it is seen as my own protest work.

  • 0 The passing of two friends

    • Blog
    • by Emily Elisa Halpern
    • 23-06-2020
    5.00 of 1 votes

    Feeling a bit shell-shocked at the loss of two people who were really good to me: Thomas and Ann Sergott and of Sergott Contemporary Art Alliance. Tom and Ann championed my work, and many other SoCal artists in art fairs around the States and at their Rancho Santa Fe home.  Tom had a stroke a year ago. During his recovery, his wife suddenly fell ill and passed away and then he followed a few days ago. The double loss is a surprise and I’ve been despondent at the loss of both their friendships and representation.        Being an artist sometimes feels akin to being an actress- just hoping someone will see your work and potential and give you a chance, handing out business cards in a sea of others.  My work can be a bit of a challenge to the average art consumer because of its scale, subject matter and price: it’s not “couch art”.  I was blessed that Tom saw my work when I had just finished grad school and gave me a chance to start showing. He took my work to fairs in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles and San Diego. Artists aren’t always good about aggressively pricing their work and Tom helped me make my first big sale of “Misplaced Desires” to a collector in Shanghai which felt so validating. It means a lot when my work resonates with others- but it means even more when they buy it. And whenever I came to their home, typically hungry, Ann would make sure I left well fed and chatted up at their kitchen counter.       As Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”




 
 

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