Evan Halter

Evan Halter

I really dig the trompe l'oeil effect of Evan Halter's frames -- or are they windows? -- which play with the idea of seeing through or into, as through an opening, but often we're blocked from doing so. Playfully, these surfaces become more like portals, each one a different experience. More at the links below!

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Tell me a little bit about you!

I'm originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but am living in Brooklyn, NY now. I got my BFA from The Art Academy of Cincinnati in 2013 and I graduated with my MFA from Rutgers University in 2016. Both of my school experiences were challenging and super rewarding. Grad school changed my work completely. Long story short I got back into representational modes of painting which I hadn't done for years. I feel really lucky to have been able to study with some incredibly genuine artists, professors and peers. I don't have too many fun facts since my practice is very slow and time consuming, but I find it funny that I sometimes listen to bands like Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine while I sit almost completely still and make very detailed, meditative paintings.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?

Like a lot of artists I started making things pretty young. As a kid I was always drawing cartoons and whatever was around me. I especially loved drawing from observation. I've always had a natural facility to draw and I found being able to replicate things in the world through drawing to be incredibly satisfying. It's a form of internalizing the world around you to better understand it. Strangely enough I started my undergrad studies thinking I would be an illustrator or designer, but quickly realized that I was going to be a painter.

What is your process like?

I spend a lot of time working out ideas in my sketchbook before I start painting. Because I work with with transparent layers of paint I have to have a pretty good idea of where I'm headed before I start painting. A lot of what I'm making right now is influenced by Fra Angelico and painters from the 1400's. There's this amazing, strange quality about pre-Renaissance painting that I love. Juan Sánchez Cotán is a huge influence for me. His still life paintings from the early 1600's really knocked me off my feet and changed my work pretty drastically. I also love Magritte, and I've been looking at Ross Bleckner too. A major theme in my work right now is merging highly rendered materials and surfaces with more atmospheric, sublime spaces. I think of this as a parallel to Christian beliefs of the spiritual and the physical existing simultaneously. 

I like to work on at least three to five paintings at a time. It keeps me from fixating on one of them too much. I also have to account for drying time so it's nice to have work in different state and to always have something to work on. It can take anywhere from 6-8 months to finish a group of paintings depending on how detail oriented they are. I also like to have some work that has a lot of small parts that require a lot of time and attention, and other paintings where I get to just push paint around.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

I've had different mentors throughout my time in school and I think what all of them, in their own ways, have taught me is to listen to myself. This means being very honest with yourself being able to ask yourself hard questions like "Is this tendency I have to do xyz something I need to lean into, or is it a crutch." I can't always answer these questions on my own, but I think I know the answer. It's just a matter of listening. I think we can often ignore the things about our work we need to change, and on the flip side we can change our work because outside influence can be so strong. In short, I guess it would be: Know thy self.

I got into a conversation about art with an Uber driver once and he told me I should make a painting of the Mona Lisa like a puzzle where each piece was painted in a different stile (impressionist, cubist, realist, etc.). So I'm glad I didn't take his advice.

Describe your studio.

Right now I'm painting in my room so things are a little cramped. I'm hoping to move into a studio soon, or maybe find a better live-work situation.

What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?

Oh man, so many things. Right now the biggest thing for me is the work, life, painting balance. I can never seem to get enough time in the studio. And living in NYC is pretty challenging. But I've met a lot of amazing people since I moved here so it's also been super rewarding. I think also being pretty fresh out of grad school and trying to find a rhythm in the studio is challenging.

In terms of studio challenges, though, I think one of the hardest things is when your work starts going through a transition and everything feels like it's up in the air.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

I would love to have a drink with Amy Poehler. I think she's incredible and one of the funnest people out there. Basically I would talk about how much I love Parks and Rec and she'd probably get really annoyed and leave.

What are three words you would use to describe your work?

Meditative. Geometric. Contained.

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

I like to take a break from making things and fill my tank back up by going out into nature, reading good literature, and spending time with friends and family.

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

Oil paint is amazing. It has a depth and warmth that is hard to get in any other medium. It's so incredibly versatile and can do anything you want it to. Ironically, one of the hardest things is to get it to do what you want it to.

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Time and space to make the work is really the bread and butter of being an artist for me. It's also important to surround yourself with people who support and challenge you. I think it's also really helpful to have things outside of "Art" to do or think about to give that part of yourself some rest every once in a while whether it's going on walks or reading fiction. Something that lets you detach so you can come back to the studio refreshed.

What keeps you creating?

I've always had an innate desire the make things, and it's certainly doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. I also really love art history, and I draw a lot of inspiration from looking at other artwork.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on finish up a few paintings for a solo show I'm having at my friends new apartment/gallery called Mom's in New York. All of the paintings in the show have the same painted frame but I've been working on making them all as distinct as I can. Each one has a different color and spacial relationship. It's always cool to see how much variation you can get out of working with pretty strict limitations.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for taking the time to look over everything!

Find more at evanhalter.com and on Instagram @evanchristopher_!

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Mike Shultis

Mike Shultis

Axel Balazsi

Axel Balazsi