We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Elisa Halpern and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily Elisa, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking is at the core of how I view my work and myself as an artist. I would never have become an artist if I didn’t embrace risk-taking. Art was always a passion for me when I was growing up, but I didn’t pursue it seriously or professionally until I was in my thirties. At a time when many were accelerating into the prime of their careers, I took the risk of starting a new one: first by getting a second BA, as a painter at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then by getting my MFA at San Diego State University, and then going all-in by coming up to Los Angeles, a city in which I didn’t have any contacts.
What motivated me to take the risk to totally change my life and embrace the highly uncertain career of being an artist, was my need to speak my truth and not just do commercially appealing work. My art represents issues that have directly affected me or that have been inspired by contemporary events, things that evoke life’s turbulent and confrontational complexities. Not simple subjects, and often ones that aren’t pleasant or about which there are strongly divided opinions. And so, every day I run the risk that people won’t get it, or they won’t like it. I try to make solid art which is important to me. And whatever risks that entails, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I aspire to create work that communicates the complex matrix of universally shared emotions yet still connects viewers with their own personal meanings. Murky, dream-like scenes evoke a disjointed sense of an unpredictable world. Many pieces are large and meant to engage the viewer in both my physical and psychological worlds. I’ve been fortunate to have received tremendous support, encouragement and helpful criticism from some wonderful teachers and peers who have inspired me along the way. Los Angeles has a vibrant and challenging art scene with a tremendous community of artists and galleries. That said, as any artist will tell you, it’s not easy. LA is a town with a lot of passion, talent and people seeking recognition for their efforts. The art world is no different. This means you have to have a strong work ethic and self-belief to overcome the challenges of making art. Having support from other artists in the community has been invaluable in my endeavors.
My advice to others would be get out in the community, meet other artists, make friends and create a network. The best source of advice about your work, galleries, new opportunities, the pitfalls to avoid and best places to show your work will come from those you trust. When you can, do your best to pay it forward to others. You never know when a good deed you did will help you in turn.
When it comes to my brand, I aspire to create work that that speaks to others in a personal way.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Prior to Covid of course, we would begin our reunion with a tough hike in Griffith Park, a visit to the Watts Towers, a performance at the Hollywood Bowl; then go gallery and museum hopping—during which I would have introduced them to some of my friends for merriment and bonding. Once we’re past the pandemic, I’d like to travel outside the Los Angeles area into the desert. I haven’t had much of an opportunity to spend time there and think my friends would enjoy exploring the area. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am most fortunate to have collectors, family and friends who believe in me and have supported my work. An artist’s life can be a difficult and financially unstable one, and I consider it the greatest privilege to be able to pursue my creative interests.
Facebook: Emily Elisa Halpern
Head shot by Pablo Mason