Interview with Joy Halsted


There is no artist on earth like Joy Halsted. It is very safe to say that she is an Original. I first came upon her work when she lived in Lanesville, Gloucester, a hotbed of creative people. At the time I was blown away by her range and inventiveness, how she manipulated both material and ideas in ways that were completely new to me. Even her toys made a statement, and the stained glass Lady of Good Voyage that I purchased that day looked only vaguely like the statue over the famous church. This Lady glowed in a brilliant design of piercing blues and reds and golds to send a message all its own. Since then we have become close friends and I have been privileged to exhibit with her from time to time.

Here is her biography and her own description of her work and process.

I have been a professional artist for close to sixty years. I am now 82 years old. I grew up in the Philadelphia area, went to Bennington College, got married, lived in Panama when my husband was stationed there, then moved to the Washington DC area. While living there for 25 years, I was exposed to politics and the new art scenes of Op and Pop art. I was thrilled with both. Their visual ideas turned up in my work. It was fun and exciting to have those freedoms of expression, so different from what had been known before in the arts. Working and living in such fertile ground my work expanded to include sculpture, some of it kinetic.

I have always worked in more than one medium as different materials excite my creativity and tend to freshen what has gone before. Working in glass, I found that my paintings had outlines much like the soldered edges of glass. Then, in printing, either etching, linocut or lithography or wood engraving, the ideas and textures were joined in sculptural scenes to become dioramas that built visually in more than one dimension. I often work on more than one thing at once which can be a handicap as so many ideas need to be expressed that it’s hard for me to edit them. Often chaos happily reigns!

I am greatly influenced by toys from my childhood and have made many large and small ones as sculpture.

Red Grooms, a sculptor, painter, and grand scene performance artist and Calder are two of my favorite artists, for their wit and playfulness. Artists should remember how to play like children. IT is the birth of creativity. They both shared a mature irreverence to art, which gave them greater freedom of expression.

Being an artist is my major identity along with being a wife and mother. It was hard to do both at times, especially when my two children were young. I had to think of them as being major works of art, which they were.

Family Impressions, plywood, canvas, coat hanger, ironing board, oil & acrylic,  50 x 60 x 14

Pat: Do you have the same drive and ambition as when you were younger?

Joy: I don’t have the same drive. My energy isn’t the same. Because of or in spite of both these things, however, my ambition seems to be more aggressive.

Pat: Have your goals changed over the years?

Joy: Yes. They’ve had to, and that’s hard to accept.

Pat: Are you goal or process oriented or both?

Joy: My process is the most important thing to me, but if goals are met, all the better.

Pat: Do you feel that your energy and creativity are linked?

Joy: My creativity is certainly helped by energy, but my mind continually pushes ahead with new ideas.

Pat: You are a uniquely innovative artist. Are you largely drawn to one medium or do you continue to experiment in many?

Joy: It’s still hard for me to work in just one medium. They all attract me, but I have to tell some of them “Not this time” or “Not yet.”

Boston Common, plywood, particle board, wooden beads, oil, 6ox30x20

Pat: At any time have you considered not making art?

Joy: Not making some form of art is not an option.


Family Wallpaper, linocut printed paper figures, acrylic, black Arches paper, 30 x 22

Pat: Have you had to adapt your way of working in response to a change in living situation or because of a physical restraint?

Joy: I have always written poetry and I started writing it again when I couldn’t use my studio in my usual way because of a lack of balance that was very tiring. I am much better, now, but poetry remains another form of expression for me. At no time have I ever considered not doing something creative even when I was ill. I would be like water, always finding a way to get where I wanted to be. A wonderful new addition has been joining a poetry group. Having another outlet when you can’t move well is a godsend. Poetry is so visual in its own way, because you chose words like colors, placing them as you might in a painting. It is a whole new world of investigation and pleasure.

Pat: Do you have a support system or systems?

Joy: Many friends support my efforts, starting with my husband. I’m lucky to have gallery support as well. The community I live in, Gloucester, MA, is extraordinary in the arts and in the ways it encourages and supports them. It is a fertile life living here, appreciating each other’s efforts.

Pat: Do you feel you are doing your best work? If not, is there a period that you would identify as one in which you did your best work?

Joy: I’m not sure I’m doing my best work at the moment as I tire easily. In my 50s and 60s I did a lot of sculpture and painting. Much of it was kinetic and was great fun and very innovative. I miss my youthful vigor when I worked longer hours and could heft heavy materials. My 50s and 60s were a very energetic and vibrant time. As for what the future holds, at my age it is hard to know. I hope I haven’t done my best work already as I still have much to say, time and strength allowing. I have been very fortunate to have exhibited in many galleries near and far, although success, whatever that is, has been limited compared to what I had hoped. Still I cannot imagine that I would ever stop  making one kind of art or another. I do it for myself and am my most severe critic. What I do is like play with no limit to what I imagine to produce. I just do what I do and enjoy it. Never without ideas, my mind runs faster than the body these days! The main thing is to just keep going.

Minerva, plywood and acrylic, 40 x 30


Leda, plywood, wood, washrag, acrylic

Pat: Do you feel that your age works against you in the marketplace?

Joy: I think if I were a better-known artist the marketplace wouldn’t matter. My art would sell itself by popular demand. It is very young in spirit. That’s what counts.

Pat: Do you find it more difficult to begin?

Joy: It’s been harder to begin these days as bodily repairs and other matters of aging take precedence. I’m a bit out of practice in keeping to a schedule.

Pat: For the most part, have you been able to maintain your sense of artistic worth?

Joy: What is artistic worth? I know I’m a good artist and some few others think so, too. My own feeling counts the most. It has to.

Cloud Nine, mixed media, 8 x 10