Much has been written about Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, the
husband and wife team whose photographic tableaus took the art world
by storm more than six years ago. Creating a genre unique within the
photo world, the ParkeHarrisons construct fantasies in the guise of
environmental performances for their Everyman a man dressed
in a black suit and starched white shirt who interacts with
the earths landscape. Tapping into their surreal imagination, the
artists combine elaborate sets (which can take up to months
to construct) and an impeccable sense of wit and irony, to address
issues about the earth and mankinds responsibility to heal the
damage he has done to its landscape.
Consistently dressed in a his trademark outfit, this Everyman is
earths protector, healer and communicator, using low-tech implements
as his aid. This Everyman then takes shape as fabricated props for
theatrical performances, which are staged to be photographed. Like
a production reserved for the cinema, the ParkeHarrison invent their
settings, which tend to look more like scenes from Metropolis
or Blade Runner rather than the family photo album.
As Robert ParkeHarrison said in the foreword to his monograph, "I
want to make images that have open, narrative qualities, enough to
suggest ideas about human limits. I want there to be a combination
of the past juxtaposed with the modern. I use nature to symbolize
the search, saving a tree, watering the earth. In this fabricated
world, strange clouds of smog float by; there are holes in the sky.
These mythic images mirror our world, where nature is domesticated,
controlled, and destroyed."
In their most well-known works, the artists built oversized objects
to perform improbable acts: a huge needle repairs the cracks in the
earths surface (Mending the Earth); a gear and propeller
flying apparatus carries a man over the land so he can feed it (The
Sower). In Reclamation one of five new gravures on
view we see the suited man dragging the earth as if it were
a blanket, providing a new layer for its continued existence. In Burn
Season, Everyman comes upon a field of flames wearing a suite
of water balloons, ready to save it from extinction. In Rain Dance,we
see Everyman multiplied by four, each one carrying a branch, forming
a human Stonehenge, empty water jugs on the ground ready to rescue
the impending storm.
Along with these new pieces and several earlier gravures, the artists
will show four 64 x 52" painted panel pieces, including Airway
a giant Mylar tunnel set in the landscape, allowing Everyman
to breath clean air. The ParkeHarrisons join a growing number of artists
working within and about the land, reminding us, through humor and
gesture, what we continue to do to the land and what we need to do
to heal it.
The ParkeHarrisons received a Guggenheim Fellow in 1999, an Artist
Grant in Photography from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2001
and 1996, among other awards. Their monograph, The Architects
Brother, was published by Twin Palms Twelve Trees Press in 2000
with a second edition in 2002. Their works are included in numerous
collections including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum
of American Art (NYC), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston) and the International
Museum of Photography at George Eastman House.