Emily Elisa Halpern's paintings are constructed with bold lines and flattened shapes in pared-down compositions. Items are recognizable but not detailed. Ambiguous spaces filled with idiosyncratic forms populate the work and act as a surrogate for the self. Rough, gritty and meaty surface qualities express her need to be direct and are achieved by applying thick layers of paint in a blunt mark. In order to disorient the process and to see the piece through fresh eyes, she turns her pieces upside-down on a custom-made easel. She does not make make thumbnail sketches or plan the work before she paints. Instead, she discovers the content through the work. Halpern's creative process is directed but improvisational, incorporating the use of intentional and accidental mark making.
Many of her paintings reflected a disjointed sense of unease in an unpredictable world. Throughout her artistic career, she has addressed the current contemporary environment and melded it with her own experiences. She addresses issues such as racism and police brutality, domestic abuse, sweatshops, oil spills, addiction, climate change and being in quarantine due to Covid. The serious nature of her content is not always specifically recognizable. However, strong undercurrents of emotion combine with murky narratives of danger and convery feelings of loss and destruction. Halpern points out the many threats to our planet and to our democracy. Her lack of detail invites the viewer to bring their own experiences to the artwork. She aspires to create work that deepens our understanding of the ways in which certain personal meanings reflect the complex matrix of universally shared emotions.