Ten Questions for Chairs of Inclusion lead artist Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern

Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern brings her extensive background in fashion design and textiles to “Dialogue of Four Chairs,” her Chairs of Inclusion project. Here, Lisa talks about her craft and working with WAE Center artists.

  1. What is your education and background as an artist?
    I have been a practicing painter for 20 years and have extensive background in fashion design and textiles. I earned an undergraduate at Parsons School of Design, and a MFA in painting from New Jersey City University. I also served as an executive designer for Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, overseeing all aspects of home collection design.
  2. What inspires you?
    I am inspired by art history and by beautiful things, both man-made and in nature. I pay great attention to the color and structure of things, and am amazed by historical art, such as paintings by the Dutch masters.
  3. How would you describe your artistic style and your process?
    I paint with what is considered a traditional technique. I like to finely craft my pieces, paying very close attention to details in the complete crafting of the object. My subjects don’t tend to be traditional, however. I believe that tradition needs to be infused with what is current, so I include references to what we live with in our current culture.
  4. What initially inspired your Chair concept?
    When I was first asked to be involved, I knew that I would be creating a 2-D piece. I immediately had the idea of not one, but four chairs, reminiscent of four people sitting at an intimate table playing board games or sharing coffee in this shared space. I then thought: what lends itself to a quartet of chairs – the four elements. I felt that this project should be full of creative energy and the four elements that sustain life were a perfect fit.
  5. What was your experience working at the WAE Center on your Chair?
    The atmosphere was absolutely wonderful and very conducive to creativity.  The staff all went out of their way to be gracious and helpful and the members were just a joy and very enthusiastic. They were uninhibited, with really great ideas to add to the projects while also being open to suggestions. It was a very rewarding and all around great experience.
  6. Did your Chair concept change or evolve as you worked with the Center’s artists?
    The project began with four canvases with black line drawings, outlines on the canvases.  I prepared stencils ahead of time, so that no one would ever have to worry that they couldn’t fully contribute. The paintings really developed over four days and it was amazing to watch the different stages of how they evolved. Sometimes the members worked together, sometimes staggered, but every person greatly enhanced the paintings. For me it is all about the process and not the finished product.
  7. What does Inclusion mean to you?
    Inclusion means welcoming; making someone feel welcomed and appreciated just for being there and being themselves.
  8. What do you do when you’re not creating art?
    When I am not creating art I love to walk, listen to beautiful music, and spend time with my family. I also teach undergraduate painting and drawing classes at NJ City University and at Brookdale Community College.
  9. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    You don’t know until you try. When you are trying, try not to second-guess your vision.
  10. What is your next project?
    My next project is “Family Jewels,” and exhibition at the Crary Gallery, Warren, PA, which will feature two dozen of my brightly colored paintings. I have been developing this series of paintings since 2007, when I inherited a large costume jewelry collection from my mother-in-law. This project holds great significance because it is occurring on the tenth anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death. Creating these paintings has afforded me a way to remain connected, celebrating and remembering her while in-process, and sharing my memories with others through the finished works.

Photos of Lisa’s collaboration with WAE Center artists