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Artist ID: 2209

While I think of my current work as painting in truth, it dwells in the twilight zone between painting, sculpture and installation, always vacillating between real and unreal, object and place. The areas of slippage between modes (2 dimensions and 3 dimensions, landscape and object, the gallery and the stage) are where I seek to invent and reinvent. My architecturally scaled, cut paintings function as sites for events or performance. The scale and immersive quality of this work provides a world the viewer inhabits both physically and mentally, posturing them as the protagonist in my environment. The experience of occupying such invented spaces has a magical quality. Rather than imagine themselves there, viewers are reminded of their own body, creating a sensation purely about visual and tactile pleasure, even while confronting the qualities of un-nature. Both the eye and the body at large are taken over in perceptual ways as the pictorial field is blown away to encompass the peripheral. This exerts control over the viewer as actor, prescribing ways to look at and move through the spaces and vignettes. Shapes, colors and forms carry their own internal logic- they are not generated from actual nature but rather come from a lineage of drawings and collages over time. In other words, they are part of the ecosystem of my studio landscape. The act of making the cut, painted canvas works, due to their scale, becomes performative as well. The works are stood on, crawled on, and wrestled into existence, which posits me, the artist, literally “in” the painting as a figure in my own world. Once cut, the painted muslin shapes are sharp and graphic, calling attention to their drawn-ness but the looseness of the paint gestures on the surfaces is a record of the physicality of my body engaged in process. Materials, technique and movement establish fantasy, illusion, and the interplay between flat and not-flat while building an alternate Utopic environment. This idea of large scale cut-paintings comes directly from my painted paper collages. Just as the physicality of my body is present in the large-scale works, the presence of my hand is inescapable in smaller paper collages and ceramic sculpture as they hold intense surface interest and intricacy. Utilizing a process similar to that of mosaic, painted paper fragments are trimmed, pruned, and woven into discrete spaces so as to appear whole. The impulse to create such ornate surfaces is in opposition to the fast read virtual and digital “landscapes” we increasingly reside in. This body of work also explores the alternate dimension of an objectified landscape where time is suspended. The results are intimate and taut, sealed spaces, hovering between interior and exterior, tomb-like and thus ultimately removed from nature. The use of pattern and surface is often employed to create the push and pull between figure and ground, creating a perceptual thrill.

Erin Harmon was raised in the suburbs of Southern California at a time when natural deserts were sated by hundreds of miles of aqueducts to produce obsessively groomed lawns. After graduating from San Diego State University with a BA in Studio Art, she received her MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design. Erin currently lives in fertile Tennessee where kudzu and coal sludge can swallow everything in their path. She has exhibited her work nationally in both group and solo exhibitions at venues including Field Projects, NY; Sarah Doyle Gallery, Providence RI; Atlanta Artists Center & Gallery, Atlanta GA; the Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; and the Attleboro Arts Museum, Attleboro, MA and LAUNCH Gallery, LA. Erin has been invited to produce commissions for organizations including Ballet Memphis, The Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis, and the Memphis in May International Festival. Currently she holds the James F. Ruffin Chair of Art at Rhodes College and a founding member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles. While not a gardener in the traditional sense, Harmon cultivates seeds of interest with a variety of influences. Her observed environment, bonsai trees, mid-century modern design, classic Disney movies, 1970’s psychedelic black-light posters, Baroque theaters, and science fiction all influence her work.

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