Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Art Space Talk: Elisse Pogofsky-Harris

I recently interviewed artist Elisse Pogofsky-Harris. Born in Chicago and receiving her degree in art from the University of Michigan, Elisse Pogofsky-Harris’s work has been strongly colored by the eleven years she spent living and working in Rome, Italy.

"Her metaphoric language creates a dream world where past and present merge. Art historical allusions, personal symbolism and carefully observed reality intertwine in compositions that speak to both individual and universal concerns about life," wrote Richard West, in a recent catalogue of Pogofsky-Harris’s work.

Ojai, California has been her main place of residence for the past twenty five years, but every year she returns to Italy to paint in her studio there. Ms. Pogofsky-Harris’ work has been widely exhibited. Her highly acclaimed art is part of collections of museums, corporations, and universities, as well as many prestigious private collections.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I was 10 years old and had to stay home from school for a month in bed, I entertained myself by drawing and painting. It became a serious interest and I began to fantasize about having the life of an artist."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "The first mature phase of my art developed while I lived in Rome, Italy for eleven years. I did aquatint etchings and the content had to do with the people I saw daily. I was mostly interested in the lives of the elderly people around me so visible in the streets.

Years later, I became involved in an international women's arts project called Women Beyond Borders, a cross cultural collaboration connecting women, to honor and document women's voices and visions, to encourage dialogue and collaboration and to inspire creative expression."

Q. On average how long does it take for you to create a piece?

A. "I usually respond with a quick "as long as I have been making art". But the truth is I work on my paintings until I feel they are finished which can take as long as a year or as short as a week. Of course size has a great deal to do with the amount of time spent on each piece. I often work on more than one project at a time which allows me to put the work aside. After not looking at the painting for several weeks I may decide to rework much of it."

Q. What was your most important exhibition?

A. "My most important exhibition was at the Frye Museum in Seattle, Washington. The museum had just been renovated and my work, covering a ten year period was in four major galleries. The most exciting moment was when I saw the banner, the HUGE banner hanging in the museum entry with my name on it and and the title of the exhibition 'Spirits, Wolves, and Metaphors'."

Q. Do you have any studio rituals?

A. "I turn on jazz music as soon as I enter my studio, if I am having trouble working I might sort through books, photographs, old letters, or portfolios of my work."

Q. Where can we see more of your art.

A. "You can see my work on my web site at www.pogofsky-harris.com or look me up on the Ojai Studio Artists web site. My work is represented in many public collections including The Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA; The Bank of Levy Collection, Ventura Museum of History and Art, Ventura, CA; The Santa Fe Arts Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, CA; Municipal Art Collection, Ventura, CA; The Harithas Collection, Longacre Museum, Longacre, Texas; The Municipal Art Collection, Ventura, CA; The University of Houston and Rice University, Houston, Texas; The University of California, Los Angeles, CA."

Q. In one sentence, why do you create art?

A. "I create art because I have to."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I am in Ventura County, California. I have seen over the past 25 years an amazing shift in the recognition of this area as a large active arts community. The city of Ventura has taken on a development program that recognizes the cultural and economic benefits derived from supporting the artists in the area with grants, exhibition spaces, workshops, and festivals.

Focus on the Masters organizes a Ventura studio tour as well as recognizing the outstanding artists in the area and archiving their work.Studio Channel Islands at the new California State University in Camarillo, CA, has an exceptional exhibition space and has consistently had outstanding exhibits.The City of Ventura has an outstanding public arts program and has promoted live work space for artists.
In Ojai, CA The Studio Artist Tour is one of the first of its kind and has brought national recognition to the city. When funding was cut for the arts in California, the Ventura County Arts Council persevered helping support arts groups within the county and bringing programs and art to the schools."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "Because I lived in Italy for such a long time, I absorbed the historical art that was around me especially that of the Renaissance and Pre-renaissance, which was religious and mainly Christian in nature.
On my return to the states, I began to draw from this influence using Christian iconography in my compositions. I began to wonder about my own religious roots and began to research Jewish themes which I felt closer to. These themes became pivotal to my work. I have since moved on from those themes."

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Elisse Pogofsky-Harris. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

No comments: