Portraits by Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern
Mitzi & Warren Eisenberg Gallery
May 9 – June 29, 2014
Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern’s striking and provocative paintings draw inspiration and elements from art history as well as popular culture, blending the traditional with the contemporary. For several years the artist has focused on a body of work she has humorously titled Vanitas Contemporarius. These seemingly conventional still lifes and portraits incorporate unexpected or even anachronistic objects. Initially inspired by traditional Dutch still life painting, Ficarelli-Halpern painted lush tabletop arrangements with textiles, food, flowers, domestic objects, and jewelry, and added a cell phone to each one, as if its owner casually placed it there. Attracted to this idea of the unexpected element, she also began to explore it in portraiture.
Her large-scale portraits present models dressed in contemporary clothing and wearing elaborate formal wigs and hairpieces popular with fashionable 18th century characters. Juxtaposed against patterned backgrounds inspired by Baroque textiles, the sitters use a variety of personal electronics—mobile phones, tablet computers, iPods and GPS devices. These figures exist in a world that intermingles old and new, traditional and trendy. Through their embrace of technology they are “connected,” yet they appear isolated in their highly stylized and artificial environments.
The title of the exhibition, #BaroqueTechStyle, is a clever blend of tradition and technology—a Twitter hashtag that not only describes the show’s content in a very contemporary way, but is also a homophone for “Baroque textile.” With its melding of cutting edge and conventional, Ficarelli-Halpern’s work suggests the past in a way that is totally of the moment. The works in #BaroqueTechStyle are undoubtedly worthy of trending topic status.