Phoebe Helander

June 11, 2022   -   July 24, 2022

Graduating with an MFA from Yale in 2019, Phoebe Helander is a young artist at the beginning of her career. She makes small-scale, closely observed paintings of everyday objects and the people close to her. Helander often paints the same motif, but with different psychological and perspectival tweaks. Her paintings are a deft blend of skill, humor and heart.

The artist writes, The painting surface is a kind of arena, a place where something can happen. Night paintings are different from morning paintings because the light is different, and because I am different. The context, the moment of encounter, the relationship— it would be impossible for me to separate what I see from how I see it. So I approach it from the other side. I want to make the intangible thing tangible, the invisible visible. And I have to make the painting to find it.

There are no preliminary sketches, no photographs, no notes. Sometimes I am with another person; sometimes I’m alone. When the session is over, the painting is done. But it’s not always as straightforward as it sounds. Luke Left, one of the paintings in this show, happened like this: I hired a model; I painted the model; the model had to leave; I kept painting; a little guy appeared in the corner; I let him stay. And then I laid the brushes down. If a painting doesn’t work, I put it back in the pile. When I revisit a surface, I approach it as a new thing, as a memory, as material I can respond to.

Phoebe Helander lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Her work includes drawings and cartoons, which have been featured in the Shouts & Murmurs column in The New Yorker.