Michelle Haberl

Michelle Haberl is a multi-media artist from Texas, currently residing in (not always sunny) Philadelphia, PA. She holds an MFA in Painting & Drawing from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a BA in Studio Art from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. Additionally, she has spent a number of semesters at the Texas Academy of Figurative Art, Studio Incamminati, and the Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art where her love of figurally-infused abstractionism led her to its naissance in the cloistered villas of Northwest France.
Relocating from her home in Texas to Philadelphia in 2013, Michelle began pursuit of a graduate degree in figuration at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest museum and art school in the United States. Upon graduation two years later, her moveable thesis mural “Four Horsemen & Women; Seven Lampstands” made its brief expo at the CODA Building in MergeArts Pop-Up Show where it caused a sensation as a quasi-religious backdrop to the event’s runway fashion show. Subsequently, Michelle’s work has seen much publicity as part of the niche market that Philadelphia and the larger Northeast Corridor provide, her watercolor and pastel sketches exhibiting regionally and nation-wide at the Da Vinci Art Alliance, the Philadelphia Plastic Club, Era Contemporary, and the prestigious Barnes Foundation, as well as at ConArtist Collective in New York City and at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, where her 18’ oil painting “The Big Picture” remains on semi-permanent loan. More recently, her spacious digital photography has made an appearance at the International House Philadelphia, Salem Community College, and the Woolen Mill Gallery in Reedsburg, WI, where she spent the summer of 2018 as Artist-in-Residence at the Wormfarm Institute investigating non-traditional medias and cultivating vegetables on the picturesque organic farm.
Since her pedagogical beginnings as a teaching assistant at Texas A&M University in 2008, Michelle has taught at a variety of art centers, camps, and venues throughout the Greater Philadelphia region and continues to share her passion for art with students at several universities & community colleges in South Jersey. Three such establishments include Rowan University, Rowan College at Burlington Co., and Salem Community College – a mecca for glass artists as the nation’s only degree-granting institution in Scientific Glass. All three schools feature prominently among those accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
When not drawing, painting, installing, or instructing, Michelle enjoys assisting and volunteering on murals at the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, swimming laps, and taking long walks along the Schuylkill River banks.
“Often working large-scale, moving paint around at times, at other times particles of graphite, charcoal, & ink…the resulting imagery describes something between the real and the surreal. Evoking figures, portraits, semblances of people and the environments they inhabit, I strive to make ‘feeling narratives’ replete with expressive color and gesture. A multiplicity of readings is encouraged.”
“Primarily figurative in nature, my more recent work clings to the expressive eccentricities of the human form. Convinced that the naked human body is among the most exquisite phenomena naturally occurring, universally relatable yet radically diverse (concomitant with other structures of truth, beauty, order, etc.), I am wholly absorbed by its unique facets: shifting energies and gestural movements, subtle tones, and scintillating color. My errand is one that deconstructs preconceived notions of the body as a fixed, unyielding unit and reconstructs it—corporis animati—through a visual understanding of its loosely-bound, fluid masses, and free-flowing physicality.”
“In a new series of experimental bird nest ‘pods,’ constructed from vibrantly colored papier-mâché and beeswax, I propose alternative housing structures for the barn swallows that inhabit the landscape of rural Wisconsin. During my time as a resident artist at the Wormfarm Institute, I specifically investigated the formal relationships between pod and female body through a feminist lens, as well as potential avenues between the pods and future, creative living spaces for the indigent population of my chosen home, Philadelphia. Through the use of digital photography, I endeavor to capture the site-specific version of this work, installed on the Wormfarm in Reedsburg, WI.”
“There, on the small, artist-run, organic farm tucked between butte and crested bluff, I began to wonder just how closely my ongoing obsession with figuration coincided with my curiosity about the Western Uplands of Wisconsin. What hidden relationship might I ascertain between anthropoid and geographic topographies, bringing the two ever-nearer, ultimately in tandem, interwoven threads in a seamless tapestry of flora and fauna, earth and man? How much of the figure, and figural elements, in the landscape – and the landscape in the human figure? I realized that their shared discourse – the saga of living things – was one I might uncover through painting, drawing, and other traditional/non-traditional art forms during my stay at the Wormfarm Institute.”
“A vision occurred to me one evening while contemplating the crimson sunset from across the gorge: sheets flowing in the unseen currents of northern air, lyrical dancers against a backdrop of hemlock, fir, and sky. In my last weeks on the farm, I hurriedly rigged up what remains an eerie manifestation of the inner eye (to which the unseen is visible). Some 500’ of bundling twine, 40’ of PVC pipe, and 33’ sq. of billowing cotton fabric – in all, a 14’ imitation clothesline which I hoped would bind together my disparate artistic interests in a figural exploration of the windswept Wisconsin landscape. Out to Pasture: A Sunfresh Saga gives shape and form to Air in as much as the floating, fibrous materials are the humanoid embodiment of the hands that wove them, and for so many hundred years, have traditionally hung them up to dry, reaching to embrace the sun in its providence.”

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