Dialogue 39 | Erin Haldrup-Perrazzelli

The painting [Creation] is a meditation on what it means to create and to have literal fertility or just fertile expression. The mother is holding a paintbrush in her mouth because she can’t use her hands anymore – so she’s temporarily disabled but she’s definitely still creating because she made her children! She’s using her hands to hold her children and they are the ones now creating.

Erin Haldrup-Perrazzelli
Could you introduce yourself, your background and how you became an artist? 
7 birds in a tree
My name is Erin Haldrup-Perrazzelli and I've been an artist as long as I can remember. I'll share with you here my very first painting - made when I was 2 yrs old. It's called 7 birds in a tree.  The tree theme never left me. I find this painting interesting even now because it references painting itself - with the blobs of color straight from the palette.  Although I'm sure that wasn't on my mind as a two year old - I'm glad to see it and it still inspires me!  There is another artist I was looking at recently - Ilse Murdock who also references the painter's palette directly in her work - It's a very interesting concept.  I have a fuzzy memory of making this painting. 
My grandmother, who is an artist, had the table set up perfectly. There were two cups of water, nice brushes laid out, a clean folded paper towel to wipe my brushes, crisp fresh watercolor paper and of course - the paint.  I sat in my little chair and made this painting while my whole family watched. It was love at first sight.  Since that moment, I've found it an incomparable thrill to be in front of a blank canvas and wonder what will come next. 
What is your source for inspiration? And what is the main message behind your work? 
My source of inspiration is two fold. I want to leave a mark on the world of some kind of beauty. I think that classic composition and sensitive and harmonious colors are my particular path there. That's really important to me - I think a painting should try to be beautiful, or at least ordered, whatever else it contains. The subject matter doesn't need to be nice, - it can be utterly disturbing, but I feel less interested in paintings with weak composition - which I guess I associate with ugliness. Nothing against "overall" compositions, like Cy Twombly, but I react against certain work, like Francis Bacon for example.  His compositions are so strange and his distortions of the figure don't have a clear purpose. That probably is the purpose - to show a post-modern or a post-meaning kind of space, and it is powerful. I'm just not there yet, I see eternal meaning in composition.  I also want to tell stories, from my life, that are actually universal stories.  Stories of love, conflict, archetypal characters, family, aspiration, human folly, and more.  It's a theme I believe I began in earnest when I painted this enormous painting about Hurricane Katrina in grad school.  
You can see characters in the painting like the couple with the shopping cart. They are the 1 percenters who loot society. The woman holding a martini has her feet upon the back of an artist. The artist is pointing downward trying to point out the pain in society that we need to see. And there are despondnt characters on the ground, unable to share in society's abundance.  The exact meaning of money and how it does or does not help people is left ambiguous. There are characters smashing the literal column - which stands in as a pillar of society, there are charlatans, masked figures and there is a river of blood on the horizon. I think this painting, which was made in 2006, was a predictor of where we are today.  Technology is shattering old orders and everyone is trying to pick up the pieces. There is mass confusion and misunderstanding of one another.   
Family dinner
We would love to know more about the work entitled ‘Creation’ that depicts the mom (probably an artist, is not she?) and her kids using her brushes to draw while she is performing her parenting duties. Can we interpret your work this way? 
The work Creation is definitely about being a mother artist. I know many artist mothers who seem to make a seamless transition to motherhood and they are still practicing artists. They may even have an enhanced practice after children. I felt somewhat conflicted.. Although I definitely think my kids had a positive impact on my subject matter, my priorities and my creativity - I found it very hard to have time to paint at all once I was a mother. If I did, the entire household would fall apart.  That's because when I do get absorbed in a painting, I can’t think about anything else. 
So this painting is for all the women, past and present, who may not be established enough in their career to justify paying someone to watch their kids. It’s for the artist mothers who still work a regular job, take care of kids and are just hoping to make art but can’t.  It’s not easy for men either, but historically it has obviously been easier for them. The painting is a meditation on what it means to create and to have literal fertility or just fertile expression. The mother is holding a paintbrush in her mouth because she can’t use her hands anymore - so she’s temporarily disabled but she’s definitely still creating because she made her children! She’s using her hands to hold her children and they are the ones now creating. The older child is working on a painting on the floor and the white of his canvas is the raw canvas. This is meant to allude to the act of painting itself - it’s an unfinished painting in action which could recall stages that the finished painting went through.  The position of the hands, feet and arms echo traditional Renaissance Madonna and Child paintings or even a Pieta. If the pyramidal composition makes you think of a Pieta, it should be a reverse Pieta in which the mother worries she has gone out to seed, and children are lively little saplings.  So yes, I’ll be honest I felt the struggle of what Alice Neel called that “awful dichotomy” between motherhood and painting - and I felt it most acutely when the kids were the age they are in this painting, 4 and 1 ½.  They both needed round the clock attention.  But I would tell any young mother artists out there that it can feel tough in the moment, but it will pass - Quickly. Next year both of my kids will be in school all day, so I really only had an 8 yr break.  If you can manage to compartmentalize your life so that you don’t feel pulled in too many directions at once, then the time while your children are young can be a great time to distill ideas. 
How you would describe your art in a word? 
To describe my art in one word! That’s very hard.. Let’s go with Layered.  
Any current projects or planned ones that you would like to share with us? 
Shura and Lev
I’ve been focusing on portraits lately. I really like the charge I get when painting a person from life and trying to express something fundamental about them. I like seeing what happens when you are right in front of the person - and then exercising your memory muscle while you finish it up later. I have a portrait of my husband in an upcoming show at the Bowery Gallery curated by the great painter Clintel Steed.  It can be viewed online at Artsy.net August 3rd - 21st.  The painting is called Lou in April and I didn’t realize this while I was painting it, but it’s really about the state of mourning.
I've been going through and also supporting my husband through a pretty intense few years of grieving because we had a sudden loss and I think we’re slowly coming back to normalcy. The eyes have two different expressions - one side is bewildered and looking inward or into an inward abyss. The other side shows an expression of strength or resolve. It’s a lot to read into it, but eyes are the window to the soul after all - and this is why I love portraiture. You never know what you may be able to express, whether it’s your own emotions projected onto the sitter - or some kind of deep mysterious affinity for the sitter’s state of mind.  I’m hoping to complete many portraits over the next several years.  
Lou in April

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