Josephine Halv0rson
May 14, 2023

Complete playlist below; tracks in yellow were cut for time.

  1. Ironbound/Fancy Poultry, Suzanne Vega, 1987
  2. Small Blue Thing, Suzanne Vega, 1985
  3. For Free, Joni Mitchell, 1970
  4. Diamonds & Rust, Joan Baez, 1975
  5. My Father, Judy Collins, 1968
  6. My Father/Dialog, Nina Simone, 1971
  7. Bridges, Tracy Chapman, 1990
  8. Have You Ever, Brandi Carlile, 2007
  9. Weather, Meshell Ndegeocello, 2011
  10. This Old Town, Nanci Griffith, 1993
  11. A Sorta Fairytale, Tori Amos, 2002
  12. Georgia O, The Nields, 1998
  13. Firedoor - Worcester, Mass; Ani Difranco, 1997
  14. Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae, 2018
  15. Unfinished Life, Kate Wolf, 1981
  16. I’m Alive, Beth Ditto, 2018
  17. Who Knows Where the Time Goes—BBC Sessions 1971-73, Sandy Denny, 1974
  18. Nick of Time, Bonnie Raitt, 1989
  19. Spellbound, Judy Collins, 2022
  20. Travel So Far, Joan Armatrading, 1975

An artist somewhere on the spectrum between street busker and rock star, painter Josephine Halvorson starts off her show with two classic Suzanne Vega songs, chock full of observations, sensation, and a sense of place that is both specific and quotidian. They set the tone for our conversation about Halvorson's work, her background, the death of her father, and her recent show at Sikkema, Jenkins & Co. in New York City.

She describes her peripatetic process, which began when she was a teenager painting on Cape Cod: She goes out into the world to find her subjects, then makes her paintings in situ, working en plein air to capture a thing or a moment, usually quite close-up, and often in transition. We talk about what it’s actually like to paint outside as well as her love of artistic endeavors that happen in public, from murals and photography to hip hop and skateboarding.

Josephine discusses the technical problems of mixing color over time under changing conditions and why she switched from using oil paint on linen to acrylic gouache on a specially prepared ground. She explains the role ancient frescoes played in this technical transformation, and how funerary frescoes related to conditions of mourning and temporality. Traditional genres of memento mori, vanitas, and still life painting also relate to this history and take their place in the construction of Halvorson’s work.

This tender, all-women playlist is a reflection of the lifelong pursuits that Josephine has been engaged in. Whether she is painting out of a van or in the storied studios of the American Academy in Rome, Josephine Halvorson has a warm but relentless mission to convey the conditions of marking time.


Josephine Halvorson (she/her) makes art that foregrounds firsthand experience and takes the form of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Born in Brewster, Massachusetts, she studied at The Cooper Union (BFA 2003), Yale Norfolk (2002), and Columbia University (MFA 2007). In 2021, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Halvorson is the recipient of major international residencies and fellowships: The US Fulbright to Vienna, Austria (2003-4), the Harriet Hale Woolley at the Fondation des États-Unis in Paris, France (2007-8), and was the first American pensionnaire at the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Medici (2014-15). Her work has been exhibited internationally and is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY, and Peter Freeman, Paris. Selected exhibitions include SECCA (2015), Storm King Art Center (2016), the ICA Boston Foster Prize Exhibition (2019-20), and Ríos Intermitentes, a group exhibition curated by Magdalena Campos-Pons as part of the Havana Bienale (2019). In 2021 she presented a solo exhibition of site responsive work at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM, where she was an artist in residence. Halvorson’s work and practice have been written about extensively and she is a subject of Art21’s documentary series New York Close Up. She is Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting at Boston University and lives in western Massachusetts.