Lifestyle: Artists

Illuminating Joy

Joanne Handler's Art Is A Cornucopia Of Color And Unbridled Energy
By Heather Buchanan - June 3, 2019

 A relationship with a painting can be like dating – you may appreciate the dark and brooding or Avant Garde but you really want to bring home something that brings you joy. For artist Joanne Handler, the highest compliment she receives is a customer who wants to bring one of her pieces into their home to enjoy it every day. Her use of vibrant color strikes a responsive chord in people. Handler comments, “Color makes me feel alive, and I like life to be fun. There’s so much negativity in the world, so wouldn’t you want to wake up in the morning and look at something that makes you feel good and happy?” Her Westhampton second home inspires the same sense of joy and inspiration, a beloved gathering place for family and friends and a retreat from Manhattan. 

Handler began her artistic career as a photographer studying at the University of Pennsylvania then specializing in portraits and fine art. She began thinking about mixing media and took lessons at the Art Students League of New York where she fell in love with painting. “I can get lost in the painting, and it’s very cathartic,” she explains, “I love Frank Stella and was attracted to his geometric abstracts, so for the first couple of years I painted clean lines.” These were part of a series called, Doing Lines and then she started on a new series, Going Rogue. Handler says of the transition, “As I got more confident, I expanded my tools and gestures, using everything from acrylic to oil, spray paint and even house paint. I also experimented with tools, everything from a fly swatter or broom to a spackle knife or even toilet brush. They created interesting marks and layering.” 

The result is a cornucopia of color, motion and design with unbridled energy. “The process is freeing and exciting, and it’s like a mystery what is going to come out,” she explains. Each painting has a title from a song. Music speaks to Handler’s soul, and she is known for her party playlists. “I’m very into music and very eclectic in my taste,” says Handler, “I’m always listening to music while I paint. The emotions evoked by the different songs encourage my color choice and mark making.” The title becomes an homage whether it is Beautiful Disaster, Love on the Brain, or Gettin’ Jiggy with it

Travel has also been a huge inspiration for Handler who finds the journey to another place, country, language and culture unlocks the creative process, citing Morocco especially for its native vibrant colors. 

Handler’s work has been exhibited nationally and recently at The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton as part of “Zen and the Art of Women,” celebrating four women artists. She comments, “It’s a really important time for women to be empowering each other, and I think we’ve come a long way. I have two daughters, and I want them to feel empowered to do whatever they want to do and not feel like they are hitting a wall. I am coming into art later in life. I devoted my younger years to raising my family and I was happy to. Now I have the freedom to pursue my art and have success at it. I have to pinch myself a little. The fact that people want to put it in their home is an amazing validation.” 

It also represents a legacy gift to her family. “My paintings will be around way past when I’m here,” says Handler, “My kids and grandchildren will be able to remember me when they look at it.” And what better reminder to appreciate the joy in life every day.

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