Award winning, supercharged, original paintings. USA project grant, Pollock-Krasner grant, Born: 1952 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Harris' ManTrap Project examines themes related to life and death on a small lake in Minnesota.
Currently creating enamel flag paintings that examine ecological, religious, political themes.
I believe paintings to be transcendent, poetic, ethereal. The body of work that you are viewing represents forty years of dedicated painting and research.
Works by other artists continue to affect me deeply and convince me that painting is a powerful and direct means to communicate the most profound aspects of our human character and being.
In 1985, while in South Dakota, the painting Die Laughing won First Place: Painting, in an international exhibit curated by Scarsdale/Metro Art in New York City. Also in 1985, Hamburger High School received First Award in New American Talent, a nationwide art competition and exhibition at Laguna Gloria Art Museum in Austin, Texas. This led to a solo show at the Harris Gallery in Houston, Texas in 1985. Hired as Gallery Director for the College of Santa Fe (now known as the Santa Fe University of Art and Design) Fine Art Department, I moved to New Mexico and my work was awarded best-in-show at statewide competitive exhibits hosted by the College of Santa Fe, 1989 and the Los Alamos Fuller Art Center in 2003. Additionally, a solo show at the University of Colorado-Boulder opened in August, 1992. The Colorado Daily and Denver Post reviewed the exhibit.
The Center for Contemporary Art Santa Fe curated a one-person exhibition, Rescuing Something of Substance, in 1994. The eight-foot-square paintings address social, political and environmental issues. One work, WYSIWYG+or-9 (whizzywhig plus or minus nine), is a painting/zoetrope of a child trying to kill a frog. Like a film loop, nothing happens as the incident plays out over and over. Mercury is two paintings in one. It is orange, blue and white when exposed to light and then, glows-in-the-dark when light is eliminated. This effect is achieved by positioning Kodak glow-paper on the fish scales, allowing the invisible pollutant (mercury) to be seen.
The award of a $20,000 support grant by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in the year 2000 was an incredible assist in creating a series of work devoted to themes of birth, death, identity and family. At their core, these paintings are about hope and despair, fear and bravery, loss and gain. The grant was critical to the ongoing life of the series, infusing capital and bestowing an endorsement that garnered attention. The award generated constructive and meaningful public dialogue during an exhibition at LewAllen Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Following this exhibit, a comprehensive survey of sixty two paintings was shown in the Everist gallery at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 2001. These public engagements were the direct result of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s award.
Singular works in collective exhibitions were shown at SITE Santa Fe in 1996 and the Sheldon Art Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1997. In Santa Fe: Aura Gallery, Galeria El Zocalo and LewAllen Contemporary hosted solo shows during the nineties. The New Mexico Museum of Art included the painting Twins in a 2005 exhibit About the Face and recent works from the ManTrap Lake series were shown at the Santa Fe Art Institute in November, 2011. Several paintings are now in a collective exhibition at Greg Bennett Contemporary in Palm Desert, California. A solo exhibit at Bennett Contemporary entitled Flags is scheduled for 2014.
Serving as director of installations and shipping at LewAllen Contemporary in Santa Fe for nine years from 1993 to 2002 was instructive, fun and challenging. I worked with hundreds of artists from all over the United States. Moving on to the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos in 2005, I became Chair of the Fine Art Department and began teaching courses in Painting, Drawing, Art History and Modern Art. This position is rewarding and enables continued painting and research.
A partial list of publications include: Contemporary Art in New Mexico by Jan Adlmann, editor Barbara McIntyre, Craftsman House, 1996; New American Paintings, Open Studios Press in 1995
(Book V), 1998 (Book XVIII), and 2000 (Book XXX). THE Magazine: Santa Fe’s Monthly Magazine of the Arts, placed the work Mascara on its cover to accompany a feature article:
The Universe of Patrick Harris, in May of 2000. In December of 2000, Architectural Digest reproduced four paintings in an article entitled La Posada de Santa Fe. PasaTiempo, Santa Fe’s Weekly Magazine of the Arts, placed Made in China on its cover with a feature article on December 4, 1998. PasaTiempo then placed Harmony on the cover of its March 25, 2005 edition to accompany a review of a collective exhibit at Tadu Contemporary Art, Santa Fe. Goldfish also made the cover of the November 3, 2006 issue of PasaTiempo, featuring a review of a solo exhibit at Tadu Contemporary.
The content of my earlier work is political, addressing the effects of pollution and environmental degradation on the planet. This content is emphasized by placing multiple canvases in a sequential or cinematic order. One painting actually glows in the dark. Another work, Mother’s Milk, is a landscape in the shape of a Guernsey cow, all its milk draining out in a sequence of nine panels.
Prior to 1998 the paintings were impasto and over an inch thick. After 1998, I shifted the paintings’ material substance from highly impasted surfaces to a slick, linoleum-like barrier made of titanium white. Unlike watercolor, the paint attaches to the surface but does not penetrate the canvas. My paintings at the turn of the century focus on human incidents of spiritual and intellectual compression, revealing a preternatural element present in our daily lives. Oedipus depicts a boy and mother at their private birthday party. Twins portrays two adolescents in clown makeup, bull’s eye
targets on their foreheads. Mannequin heads resemble human taxidermy as a girl looks on in Spring.
More recent paintings that compose the ManTrap Lake series expand the scope of my work in an interesting way. While the earlier work focuses on our path toward species extinction, ManTrap is about a path that leads away from extinction. These artworks employ a Palladian scheme of a circle set in a square. The circle, representing the sun or moon, is painted to resemble a powdercoated surface. This faux powdercoat acts as a visual foil to the figures and objects painted in haboku or traditional brushwork. Combining theme, place and technique in an artwork is the reason I paint and each work is propelled by this principle and sustained by it. Paintings in this series express themes of responsibility for one another and convey a sense of purpose in the human endeavors of art, business, government and spiritual quests. A grant of $4,459 from United States Artists in Los Angeles funded this series during 2011.
The current body of work, a series of flags, is especially important. They are indebted to the work of Jasper Johns but, employ enamel paint instead of encaustic media used by Johns. By using material associated with signage, these works in enamel are both signs and paintings. As signs, they suggest the presence of a fact and convey ideas or commands in public space. Signs are also symbols that serve as an indicator or a presage to a portentous incident. Medically, signs indicate
malfunction or the existence of disease. As flags, they assert that the subject of each painting is a significant entity, deserving of an identity. This identity is then preserved, symbolically, on a flag. As a flag, it presents an argument for preservation and for the subject’s inalienable right to exist.
Lobster Flag is a white cross on green ground. Using the splashed-ink painting technique of Haboku, I splashed red on the surface and then transformed it into a lobster with a few purposeful strokes. A horizontal band of barbed wire was added, resembling a crown of thorns. Tied to the crown and suspended above are four coins/medallions, each bearing silhouettes of Pablo Picasso, creating a cup image between the two profiles. This image was first used by Jasper Johns in Cups 4 Picasso and Cups 2 Picasso. The lobster, wire, floating coin/medallions, and cross all work together to produce a running commentary on the nature and substance of art produced by Picasso and Johns. This commentary is amplified and expanded in a second painting, Chicken Flag.
Other flag paintings include Bipolar Flag (blue) and Bipolar Flag (red). The blue version depicts Polar bears searching for ice as they are overtaken by water. The red version represents the impact of global warming on Polar bear habitat. In true Dada style, the titles are a play on words: bipolar references a disorder characterized by episodes of elevated mood alternating with episodes of depression. Bipolar is also a re-spelling of Bye Polar – like saying, “Good-bye Polar Bears”.
Another work, Dodo Flag is inspired by the Flag of Jasper Johns. A white, negative image of a dodo replaces the stars located in the canton area of the American flag. Dodo Flag engages Johns’ in dialogue and separately addresses concepts of nationality, empire, and extinction in a parallel discussion. ‘Dodo’ also puns the word, ‘Dada’.
These paintings can be installed horizontally or vertically. Horizontally, they mimic (in flag terms) ‘flying position’. Some of these works employ cruciform designs that are apparent when the painting is installed vertically, charging it with an iconic symbolism. This enables them to project an image of cross and an image of flag simultaneously, engendering additional conceptual layers in the work.
I strongly believe that these works expand the vocabulary of painting.
Developing a mature style and consistent body of work over the past forty years has exposed me to considerable risk and financial hardship. Each setback requires innovation, resolve and a pertinacious belief in the work itself that supersedes personal and financial considerations. So many people have helped me in so many ways. They enable this work to go forward.