BU Today feature: ICA/Boston Honors CFA’s Josephine Halvorson
This article was originally published in BU Today on October 7, 2019. By John O’Rourke.
Josephine Halvorson was a high school student on Cape Cod when she first painted still lifes in the plein air tradition—working out of doors in all elements and changing light conditions. She was drawn to the spontaneity and serendipity that comes from painting on site.
“It’s this experiential way of working in real time, responding to one’s environment and the changing conditions of light and people and the kind of chance that’s involved—I like that as an artist,” says Halvorson, a College of Fine Arts professor of art and chair of the School of Visual Arts graduate studies in painting program.
The practice of plein air has continued to inform her work for much of the two decades since she graduated with a BFA from Cooper Union and an MFA from Columbia. Halvorson vividly captures the physical appearance of subjects ranging from shutters, doors, and machinery to closely observed meditations of the woods surrounding her home and studio in western Massachusetts.
Executed without benefit of photographs to later refer to (she often completes her paintings in a single sitting), Halvorson’s works reveal a masterful use of color, texture, and scale that has won her international recognition and numerous honors, among them a Fulbright fellowship, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and the distinction of being the first American to be awarded the Rome Prize from the French Academy at the Villa Medici. The New Yorker has hailed her as “a remarkable and quietly inventive young artist” whose tight compositions are “dumbfounding.”
Now, her paintings have earned yet another distinction: she is one of four local contemporary artists whose work has been selected for inclusion in the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston’s respected biennial James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition, on view now through December 31.