Internationally-recognized as a painter, sculptor, and educator, Elaine Galen has just entered her 88th year and we wanted to celebrate her with this online tribute.
Throughout her creative journey, she has created an intimate dialogue with nature, using the painting process to explore its mystical, surreal and the spiritual aspects. Though her early work began in the style of Abstract Expressionism, she quickly developed her own distinctive style and evocative visual language.
Elaine’s landscapes are both perfectly abstract and wildly expressionistic. Her landscapes capture the emotional intensity and ever-changing moods of nature where light and color are in constant transition. Her paintings pay homage to the mystical canyons of the American Southwest and ancient deserts of Israel and Jordon. Studies of Boscobel and the Hudson Valley, Southern France and Umbria capture the overwhelming presence of the hills and mountains, valleys and forests of these historically rich and sacred lands
Galen’s work has been acclaimed by art critics and curators as “hauntingly beautiful”…“powerful” … “bordering on the visionary and surreal” and a “mystical realization of place”.
Elaine Galen's artwork was part of the 1961 Whitney Museum Biennial. Her artwork is in the permanent collections of the Neuberger Museum of Art; the James A. Michener Museum, Tampa Museum of Art; Vero Beach Museum; Mississippi Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; University Museum of Arizona Museum of Art; Musee Rigaud, France; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Wellsley College, Yale University, Smith College; Concordia College. It is also in private and corporate collections including AT&T, Pfizer and Continental Grain.
We interviewed Elaine about her artistic career and here’s what we learned:
When did you start painting? Do you remember what you created?
EG: Early recognition of abilities from first grade, designing school magazine covers in grammar school as well as being art editor. When I was about 12 years old I drew a portrait of my father that so impressed my parents, they sent me to Saturday art classes. I created my first oil painting of my brother at about same age.
How has your latest series of paintings evolved
EG: My current concerns still come out of interest in the abstract. At some point I imagined earth when it was first formed and all was nameless. Nature was just shapes, texture, space, color, etc. My present inspiration grew from seeing Nature as this abstraction.
However, I also have a sense of the moral obligation to preserve Nature from a destructive environment. All of this continues to define my work. There is also a commitment to preserve the brush and paint in the face of an increasing technological world with a rush to discover ever new esthetic mediums.
What is your current inspiration?
EG: My current inspiration is still all of the above, the abstract qualities that Nature represents. This often will include multi imagery, conflicting or related ideas and might appear as an image within an image.
For me it also parallels how we relate to information, one idea or picture intruding on another. We look with one view but periphery or subjective vision may introduce something else. I almost view this method of mine as a kind of very post modern kind of cubism, one idea interfacing with another. These ideas seem to be an endless challenge and source for inspiration.
Do you have particular works that you are most proud of in each decade?
I was launched into the 60’s by Morris Kantor, mentor and wonderful artist/teacher at The Art Students League, NYC. He found a temporary studio for me on 14th street. It was an exciting time realizing my strengths as a painter and soon after I was a finalist for the Fulbright award in painting which I could not accept because I had already joined my husband in France on his Guggenheim Fellowship. However, I was soon exhibiting in the south of France in the city of Perpignan, was reviewed most positively and work was acquired by the local museum. There was continued recognition of the work as I kept discovering depths as a painter.
One of the paintings that I am pleased to mention is from 1963, an oil, 60”x 50” called “3 A. M. Interior” which won first prize in the Chautauqua Institute Award and later purchased by an Illinois collector. The Amel Gallery exhibition of 1963, was reviewed by Brian O’Doherty for The New York Times.
The 60’s was a prolific and exciting time. Several works and events come to mind, including the curator, John Gordon from the Whitney Museum of Art coming to the studio and choosing work. My lithograph, printed in Paris, won the Mary S. Collins Prize at The Print Club in Philadelphia and is in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Musem. First prize was won at The Ward Eggleston Gallery, NYC as the Emily and Joe Lowe Award for painting. My work was also exhibited at the Madison Gallery, NYC, and others.
In the 1970’s I was also living in Chicago. Recognition continued with exhibitions at the Douglas Kenyon Gallery, Michael Wyman Gallery and Zriny-Hayes Gallery. The work was exhibited at a number of museums: State Museum of Illinois, Newark Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Brooklyn Museum and Whitney Museum.
Two oil paintings shown in 1974 at the Illinois State Museum and that I remember well, were “Dream” 60”x 70” and “Medea” 60” x 72”. Work was reviewed positively by the major critics: Alan Artner, Harold Haydon and Franz Schultz
I was also involved with Body Sculpture in the 70’s, receiving first prize in the American Iron & Steel for excellence in a design in steel, “Jawbone Helmet.” I am proud of this work consisting of several pieces. These works were designed to be looked at conventionally, or worn. They were adjusted for a performance in Chicago at Moming by the “Lotus” dance group. It was well reviewed and the film is in the Smithsonian Archives along with other data.
In the 80’s I returned to New York and was in transition between Chicago and New York and taught at different times at Columbia University, SUNY, Purchase and Manhattanville College. I exhibited with Eastern Illinois and won a purchase award. I was invited to join a womens’ gallery, the gallery SOHO 20. I was also invited to a major exhibition at The Jewish Museum, NY. The theme was “The Golem.” Included was my painting (which I consider important) “Winged Golem” an oil, 64”x 74” also exhibited was a multi media about 7’ high sculpture of the golem. The work was written about and reviewed extensively. The painting is now in the collection of Concordia College, in the Bronx.
Body Sculpture was exhibited at the University of Chicago. The Chautauqua Institute invited me to exhibit with them again, The Brooklyn Museum exhibited my work and acquired a drawing. There were other invitational exhibitions in Albany and New York. Gerrit Henry critic for Art in America, very favorably reviewed the exhibition at Soho 20 with a photograph of “Cambrian Thaw” oil 68”x 78” - a painting I am very pleased to have it in the Concordia College, Bronx. collection as well as “Expulsion” oil 72”x 96” in the collection of the James A. Michener Museum, Pennsylvania
In the 90’s, the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited work, as well as the University of Arizona Museum, Tucson which acquired three small paintings. I was invited to teach in Israel and The Israel Museum acquired one of my limited editions. The New York Public Library in an exhibition on limited editions, “90 for the 90’s”, exhibited my work. A painting was exhibited in the “Art In Embassies Program” USIA Selection in Cyprus. Acquisitions and exhibition of paintings include the Mississippi Museum of Art with “Skysweep” oil, 66”x76”, Neuberger Museum, NY with “Skyscape, NM” oil 60”x 70”, Tampa Musem with “Brady’s Bend” oil 55”x 63”. I have always favored “Skysweep” for its mood and open movement. I also won the Florsheim Fund Grant.
In the 2000’s there has been a great deal of activity and I will just note a few I think are significant. (The listing can be noted on the resume.) Acquisition of paintings are by Vero Beach Museum in Florida, James A Michener Museum in Pennsylvania, The Century Association, Hudson Valley Hospital Foundation, Concordia College, Metro Media and Pfizer corporate collections and others. Limited editions have been acquired by many important university special collections. (See resume.) I am particularly proud of a number of paintings that have been acquired during this last period: “Boscobel Setting” oil 56”x 68”, “Expulsion” oil 72”x 96”, “Creation Triptych” oil 60”x 210”’, “Texas Canyon” oil 64”x78” and others.
What artwork was featured in the Whitney Biennal?
In 1961, “Naturescape” oil 66”x 76” was featured in the Whitney Biennial.
Elaine shared one last thought with us:
Putting this together fills me with a satisfaction in being able to take this journey as an artist.
We are thrilled and honored to share her creative journey in this tribute. Here's a look at her several highlights detailed above.
We also have a wonderful selection of available paintings and sculptures.
3AM Interior, Oil on Canvas, 60x50, 1963. Private Collection. Won first prize in the Chautauqua Institute Award
Steel Body Sculpture. Received first prize in the American Iron & Steel for excellence in a design in steel.
Winged Golem, Oil on Canvas, 64x74. Included in major exhibit at The Jewish Museum. Now in the collection of Concordia College.
Cambrian Thaw, Oil on Canvas 68x78. Featured in Soho 20 exhibit and reviewed by Gerrit Henry critic for Art in America. Currently in collection at Concordia College.
Boscobel Setting, Oil on Canvas, 56x68. In collection of the Hudson Valley Hospital Foundation.
Pre Genesis, Panel 1 Creation Triptych, Oil on Canvas 60x70. In Collection of James A. Michener Museum.
Rock N Roll Apple, Panel 2 Creation Triptych, Oil on Canvas 60x70. In Collection of James A. Michener Museum.
Expelled, Panel 3 Creation Triptych, Oil on Canvas 60x70. In Collection of James A. Michener Museum.
Desert Storm and Wilderness installation shot in NYC in "Paradise Lost & Found"