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Meet kathy halper

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathy Halper.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I never thought of being an artist until my mid-30’s. I had started a family and wanted to be home with my kids but needed to work. Friends turned us onto George Colin, a folk artist from downstate. His work inspired me to want to try to make a pastel painting. I made a few pictures of pretty flowers and then didn’t know how to safely store them without expensive framing. Someone gave me the name of a wholesale framer and I took the drawings to him for framing. He told me I should make more and exhibit them at outdoor fairs. He said he would frame them at a fraction of the cost and lend me a tent display. He ended up becoming my “manager” and dear friend, spending weekends with me at art fairs and talking to strangers for me. We did this together for years while I gained confidence and a following. Eventually I wanted my work to evolve. I switched to acrylics and began to explore more challenging themes.

After many successful years of summer shows I set my sights on gallery representation and more prestigious venues. After a lot of hard work, I started a series based on teens, Facebook and the newly evolving privacy issues it created. I started painting found social media photos but knew something was missing. When I thought of embroidering the images instead, the series came together. My stitches would be a reminder of a mother’s presence and the old-fashioned craft would be a contrast to the new technology we were exploring. The embroideries got me gallery representation at my dream gallery, Packer Schopf Gallery. Over the next few years, I had solo shows in Manhattan, LA, my work was shown at Art Basel and many other venues throughout the states. It was written about internationally. I’m now returning to painting and loving it.

Please tell us about your art.
I create art because I have to be creative. At one point I was an advertising copywriter. At another, I was an actress. I feel passion for many different art forms but art fits my life best. I like to work alone. I like to let the art speak for me. But I can get excited about many different art mediums. I still love embroidery but I’m tired of doing it full time. I love printmaking. It’s hard for me to just do one thing long term. Conceptually tho’, I’ve had such a long evolution from being self-taught to today. In the beginning a pretty picture was enough for me. Now I want my work to be a unique expression of my way of looking at the world.

I’ve always had a fascination with pop culture and trends so my work often reflects very current views, which can make it a bit tenuous. The paintings I’m working on now are completely inspired by our crazy scary political world. I’m loving the work but will someone want to see these paintings ten years from now? I think about that because I don’t work in a vacuum. I need my work out in the world and seen.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
I would have to say gallery opportunities. I think Chicago has become a very small gallery market. I know some artists are very successful doing it all themselves but I did that for 15 years and I was very excited to let someone else be the sales expert! It’s always easiest to get representation in your home town and there aren’t as many options as there were 10 years ago. Of course, I do believe, when this series is ready, that if I try hard enough I will find exposure. I’ve always been able to make my goals come true when I put my mind to it.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Since I’m in “production” mode there are no shows planned right now for my new work. Aron Packer stills represents me thru Aron Packer Projects. And I’m happy to hear from anyone who’d like to visit my studio or have me bring work to them. My embroideries are still in demand for exhibition. Since moving to Evanston 2 yrs. ago I’ve become very involved in Evanston Made and I co-produce the Nasty Women Evanston Art Exhibition with Lisa Degliantoni. So, my work is in both those upcoming exhibitions. I also have a website (with some cobwebs on it): and I’m active on Instagram: @kathyhalperart and @kathyhalperpainter

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
William Bengtson

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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