Mar 1, 2010

Introductions: David R. Harper

This week's MFA Fiber and Material Studies lecture will be presented by David R. Harper. Harper holds a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has shown extensively throughout Canada and received several distinguished awards for his work. At first glance people viewing Harper's work are awestruck by his consummate combination of embriodery, wood working, taxidermy, and fiber construction. On second consideration the relationships between the materials he carefully selects began to illustrate a narrative of the precious, the wild, the myth, and the object. He draws from a historical framework of Victorian collecting, and ancient folktales then combines this with a contemporary consideration of the domestic.

For Harper the domestic is all about the wild. It is a constant struggle to displace our baser instincts and give them a home in a more gentile, more curated environment. Harper's work doesn't strive for a freakish Island of Doctor Moreau-like reconstruction of nature. Instead he seeks to expose man's mythic constructions of nature through taxonomy and domestication. He often combines flawless taxidermy constructions with equally virtuosic embroidery as he did for the piece The Last to Win (pictured below). In this work he looked at four famous horses who ended up mounted in museums: Napoleon’s “Vizir,” Roy Rogers’ “Trigger,” “Comanche”—a cavalry survivor of The Battle of Little Bighorn, and “The General”—a Guinness Book world record holder for largest horse. The horse itself is constructed from a taxidermy form and cowhides and features a turn of the century-style embroidery of a woman on it's loin. It is a combination of man's love for nature and simultaneous need to turn it into a souvenir.

In David Harper's newer work he begins to explore man's desire to transport the domestic into the wild with a series of 1/3 scale muslin constructed airline trailers. These great white campers are constructed like tents but like his taxidermy work they also reference human dysfunction and the diachronic state of cultural memory.

David R Harper's lecture is Tuesday, March 2nd at 12:10 in Sharp 903 at 37 S. Wabash St., Chicago, IL. If you miss his lecture be sure to check out his website for more images, installation shots, and a complete resume.

Next week's lecturer will be Bobbi Meier (Thursday 3/11)

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