If we could trace the moment Elsie Kagan awakened to the magic of painting, we might uncover it in a quiet corner of a museum where she came face to face with a small Dutch oil sketch, hung perfectly at her eye level, that felt like it had been made precisely for her. Kagan’s most recent works draw from both 16th and 17th Century Northern European painting as well as live observation. They fuse the form and depth of familiar, traditional still life with a contemporary attention to paint’s materiality; looking for both pictoral space and surface ‘presence,’ without sacrificing the power of either. Both her large and exuberant oil paintings, and her small panels made with vinyl paint explore this collision: the way the stems of a plant refract in water, the monumental presence simple objects can exude, the way gravity pulls liquid down a surface, the sweep of the arm, the glow of a film of transparent pigment. They seek that charged moment when paint is both a smear, and a cluster of blossoms.
Throughout her career she has been committed to creating art that sparks dialogue and discourse. Her work pulls various visual languages together into provocative interaction. Kagan is a New York City-based painter. She received her MFA from the Tyler School of Art and her BA from Wesleyan University. Kagan’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States, including Rush Arts, Wesleyan University’s Zilkah Gallery, Soap Box Gallery, Rivington Design House Gallery, Brenda Taylor Gallery, and the Crane Arts Center. Her public murals have received numerous awards and grants. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Flavorpill, artfcity and other blogs, the Brooklyn Record, and the current additions of the magazines Looking at Painting and Studio Visit. Recently, she attended the Vermont Studio Center on a fellowship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation.