Nov 10, 2011

PROFILE | Robert and Shana Parkeharrison

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, "Reclamation", 2003, photogravure | Alchemist II, 2008, Archival Pigment Print
Robert and Shana Parkeharrison work together to create photographic based works which deal with nature, humanity, and our interaction with nature and technology. Straddling a line between grim and hopeful their works have a visual style echoing romantic and surrealist artist of the past but address a modern environmental dialogue and technological paranoia. Their images are filled with explicit symbols suggesting a need to mend and rebuild our surroundings, but leave the settings, objects, and characters ambiguous. While the artists disregard their technical methods as inconsequential, the physical production of the pieces has an interesting synergy with the subject matter itself.

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, "Burn Season", 2003, photogravure


Most of their works seem to address environmental concerns of present day by depicting a man interacting with barren or dilapidated landscapes.  The actions of the man range from repairing the literally broken landscape, to attempting to artificially rebuild a empty earth, and suffering alongside the earth.  The artists have described the suited male "Everyman" character, modeled by Robert, as a representation of both personal struggle as well the experiences of mankind as a whole.  There are many strange technological contraptions, which do not resemble any technology we use, which possibly represent our modern use of machines for better or worse.  It is unclear where and when these scenes take place and interpretations range from a fictional post apocalyptic earth to a symbolic exaggeration of our current world.

I believe many images represent the literal impact of human technology on the earth. The work "Alchemist" depicts man's technological experiments as a failure, and ultimately harmful to its creator.  Other works like "The Gaurdian" seem to focus more on the destructive impact man has on its environment.  I interpret this piece to be a man attempting to take flight by using materials taken from the land to literally form wings, an analogy of humans usurping the land for its own advancement.  We see here that by taking the branches from the land for his wings he has left the plants destroyed.  Common sense tells us that his attempts to fly will end unsuccessfully, meaning the landscape has been destroyed in vain.
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, "The Guardian", 2003, photogravure



Many of Robert and Shana's later works focus on man's attempt to recreate natural growth.  The image "Gray Dawn" has plants growning from man's environment but seem to be struggling or dying in its still bleak surroundings, a sentiment visually enforced by the limited drab color palette.  Other images like "Summer Arm" are brighter, more colorful, and show the plants flourishing, a suggestion that there is still hope left for mankind.
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, "Gray Dawn", 2006 Archival Print | "Summer Arm", 2007, Archival Print
The two artist work in a variety of different ways with many different forms of medium and equipment to accomplish their visions.  Using both digital and film cameras to capture the artists allow the image to dictate the device needed.  Production can range in medium from traditional dark room printing, paper positives and negatives, photogravure, and hand painting.  While digital cameras are sometimes used photoshop is never used to compile the collages.  The production method for their series "Architects Brother" seems especially lengthy and laboursome, which seems appropriately matched to the subject matter which is often humans engaging in long strenuous acts. 

"Paper negatives allowed us to collage various images into one image. It is a lengthy process that requires a back and forth process from paper negatives, paper positives, drawing and contact printing. Once a final image was completed we then mounted it and painted on the photograph. This painting process consisted on many, many layers of washes. This further distanced the final image from qualities of photography." (Robert and Shana Parkeharrison - Insight)

Daniel Burns


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