Haley Josephs

Written By Maria Vogel

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from originally, what was your experience in art like growing up?

I grew up in Pittsburgh PA. I was always drawing, from since as long as I can remember – mostly animals, and I always remember having a very transformative reaction to color. It was like alchemy to me. I very much wanted to believe in magic and other worlds, and art always brought me to those places. I went to a Waldorf school as a child. Art is a huge part of the curriculum, so I think that also influenced me. We spent a lot of time using watercolors and making “form drawings”. No matter what, the color always transported me somewhere else, as if I were moving through it, not just looking at it.

Your work feels primordial and mythic, but also modern and timely. Can you explain how you embrace working with different stylistic elements in your work?

I have a hard time wrestling with different styles and embracing them. It’s sort of hard to explain but I think the best thing to say is I’m always searching for what’s true. I just try to feel out what is the most genuine for me. I think there are some aesthetic choices I could make that would be in ways easier or I would get more of a reaction from, like simple tricks (with style and trends in paint), but I try and be really critical of my choices. Sometimes the work may appear silly, put it is always with a sincere intention.

From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I am inspired by a lot of different events in my life. Overcoming trauma and expressing emotions and emphasizing the importance of honoring one’s emotions are the root of the work. Not overshadowing what’s truly human: which is to feel, even the darkest feelings, and transform them into beauty. To embrace these tendencies which might be seen as feminine, and therefore not held with as great importance, and honor them and show their validity.

Your canvases are colorful and whimsical yet also present a dark twist. What stories are you trying to tell through your work?

I’m sure there are many stories woven within. But I think your question holds the answer in it. The stories are meant to present the dark and the light and hold them with equal weight. I mean to show that it’s important to go down deep – into what is apparently dark in terms of human emotion – and then with equal importance, come back up into the sun light (both experiences need to be honored).

What is your creating process like? How long will you spend working on one piece?

If I have the time, one painting will usually take 2-3 days. A smaller painting may take only one. But I’ve been slowing down a lot lately, which I think is good for me to learn how to do. For the larger paintings, I try and work on two at a time. I don’t often make drawings beforehand, just mostly take notes as I go…

What has your experience working as a young female in the art industry been like thus far? Do you feel that you have access to as many opportunities as your male counterparts?

I am constantly aware of my femininity in most settings and in particular the art world, amongst other male artists and galleries, etc. I am constantly aware of working on presenting myself in a certain way so as to be treated with equal respect as would be given to a man. I have definitely been in situations where I feel I’m being treated more as an object than as a smart being with their own opinions. And I don’t mean object so much in a sexual way but more as in someone who lacks the knowledge of how things work, taken way less seriously. That won’t stop me though! I think I have been fortunate to have some really great opportunities, so I’m very grateful for that. I think it’s mostly thanks to my friends and people in my community who try and look out for one another, and consciously work towards an environment that strives for equality.

What artists, both living and dead, most inspire your practice?

Alice Neel has always been a huge influence on me. I have always believed that observing people is just as much the work if not more than actually handling the brush. She seemed so skilled at the act of observing. I am really inspired with all she’s gone through, that she continued to paint despite it all. Another big one for me is Paul Thek. To me, his work is also about working through trauma, and carries with it the weight of feeling human and the weight of mortality. In terms of artists living, I love the paintings of Lisa Yuskavage and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Although the subject matter is different, I’m very much seduced by the juiciness of the way they handle paint, and how the figures (of each of these painters), are otherworldly and whimsical in their own rights.

What is next for you? What has you excited right now?

I’m pretty excited about my upcoming solo show at 315 Gallery in Brooklyn! I’ve been working on a lot of new work this summer that’s been quite meaningful to me.

At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

Danny Ferrell !!!