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"The figure has always been my primary focus," Elaine Coffee says, "whether in portraits or as part of an environment. I like to refer to my approach as contemporary 'genre painting' - capturing people moving through their daily lives, gathering in restaurants, wandering through museums, even riding subways."
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and having completed studies at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York, urban life as subject matter was a natural for the artist. It was actually one of her trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that inspired her 'slice of life' paintings. She found herself focusing more on the people looking at the paintings than at the artwork itself.
"I became intrigued with how the visitors were engaged by the art and with one another, how they related - or not - to each. Gestures and body language became critical as communication in paintings." This awareness has also translated into Coffee's portraiture, painting family gatherings and nuanced portraits.
Gathering material through sketches and photographs, Coffee composes paintings in the studio, pulling subject matter from several sources. Sometimes the sources are close at hand, such as her husband John's ongoing role as "Santa" in her annual Christmas painting/card. She has been depicting him as Santa - relaying personal experiences of that year - for the last 18 years!