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Close Encounters with Josephine Halvorson

August 17, 2012

What’s the relationship between an artist and her subject? In this film, artist Josephine Halvorson guides a video crew through an exhibition of her paintings—What Looks Back (2011)—at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. Intimately exploring the detailed surfaces of her canvases like a roving eye, the camera evokes the conversational give-and-take between painter, object, and painting.

The subjects of Halvorson’s works are often singular, overlooked objects—masked-over windows, weathered walls, defunct mechanical devices—that she paints in their original environments. For Halvorson, who completes works on location in a single day-long session, choosing a subject to paint is an extremely personal and contingent process. As she describes it, “encountering something in the world, an object, allows me to realize a painting that I have somehow already apprehended, even though I’ve never made it.”

Traveling widely from her home in Brooklyn, Halvorson’s experiential process reaches outside the more common studio-based painting practices of New York City, taking her to train yards in Tennessee, a slaughterhouse in Iceland, and the English countryside.

More information and credits

Featuring, in order of appearance, the works Generator (2011), The Heat Inside (2011), Tregardock (2011), Southern 992321 (2012), Grippers (2011), Drill Holes (2011), Steam Donkey Valve (2011), Hinges (2011), Carcass (2011), and Inlaid Stones (2011).


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Brad Kimbrough & Joaquin Perez. Cinematography: Nicholas Lindner, Rafael Moreno Salazar, Andrew David Watson & Ava Wiland. Sound: Scott Fernjack & Nick Ravich. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Amanda Long & Tida Tippapart. Design: Open. Artwork: Josephine Halvorson. Additional Photography: Peter Buckley, Josephine Halvorson & Bára Sigurjónsdóttir. Thanks: Scott Briscoe, Michael Jenkins, & Sikkema Jenkins & Co. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Josephine Halvorson

Josephine Halvorson was born in 1981 in Brewster, Massachusetts, formerly worked in New York, and currently lives and works in Western Massachusetts. Combining acute attention to detail and an insistence on painting from life, Halvorson gives herself only one day to complete each canvas. Traveling outside of New York to paint, she works onsite, often selecting scenes that convey a sense of postindustrial grit. Interested in her relationship to the subjects of her paintings, Halvorson resists the term painter; she prefers to think of painting as recording time spent with an object in its environment.

Read 1


“Mine Site”

Josephine Halvorson shares the on-location California-spanning saga behind her 2011 painting Mine Site, and just as significantly, the painting she wasn’t able to make at that location.