SCULPTOR AND ART DEFY CLASSIFICATION.Byline: Paul Denison The Register-Guard
Here's what Jerry Harris will tell you about his solo show at the Jacobs Gallery, opening Friday.
It will include 15 new sculptures in various materials, ranging from 3 feet to 5 feet 8 inches in height, and 11 new collages.
His work is "abstract, often surreal," "figurative in essence," "a bit avant-garde," "traditional but abstract in my own way."
This will be the gallery's first show featuring an African-American artist - which doesn't surprise him, considering how small the black community is here.
Being a man of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color among pale people is nothing new to Harris, who married a Swedish woman and lived in her country for 20 years, returning to the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. with his son several years ago, after his wife died of cancer.
"When we came back," he says, "my son said he wanted to see some black people. I said I wanted to see some trees."
So Harris' son Andreas enrolled at Clayton State College in Atlanta, and Harris moved to Oregon. He has a studio in Portland and lives in Eugene.
This is not Harris' first time in Oregon. After graduating from high school in Pittsburgh, he spent a year in Portland with his uncle, professional wrestler and referee Shag Thomas Shag Thomas - born James S. Thomas on August 11, 1924 in Columbus, Ohio was a professional wrestler durring the 1950s and 1960s. Career
Thomas began wrestling during a time when segregation in professional wrestling was still taking place in some territories and . He attended community college in Portland and then transferred to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which he found "a little too rigid and too conservative" for a restless young man in the turbulent '60s. So he headed west again, this time to San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden State.
In San Francisco, he met Britt-Marie Olofsson, who was traveling through on her way to Mexico, on the last leg of what Harris describes, with a chuckle, as a "finishing school fin·ish·ing school
A private girls' school that stresses training in cultural subjects and social activities.
Noun " for Swedish girls who wanted to "get their English just right."
They fell in love, got married, had a son and shortly afterward moved to Stockholm. Before they left the states, Harris says, he asked his wife how her family would react to their marriage.
"She said she didn't know what I was talking about," he recalls. `I practically had to shout, `But I'm black!' She just didn't understand the question. And to her family, the strangest thing was that I was an American! It was amazing.'
Harris says his entire European experience was the same. He was accepted just as an American, and his skin color wasn't an issue.
"When you're treated that way, you just feel whole," he says.
Like most Swedes her age, Harris' wife spoke several languages by the time she left high school. But her parents spoke little English, so Harris studied Swedish at the University of Stockholm and became fluent in the language.
With the support of her family, who turned out to be wealthy, Harris also studied in the International Sculptors Program at St. Martins College of Art and Design in London, where the teachers included Sir Anthony Caro Sir Anthony Caro, OM, CBE, (born 8 March 1924 in New Malden, Surrey) is an English, abstract sculptor whose work is characterised by assemblies of metal using 'found' industrial objects. , Philip King A number of important people have gone by the name of Philip King:
He also returned to the states in 1976 to study bronze casting with James Lee James Lee is the name of:
Although classically trained in bronze, Harris has had to give it up because of osteoarthritis osteoarthritis
or osteoarthrosis or degenerative joint disease
Most common joint disorder, afflicting over 80% of those who reach age 70. It does not involve excessive inflammation and may have no symptoms, especially at first. . His materials now include wood, fiberglass, clay and found objects. He's still in rehabilitation after recent hip-replacement surgery, and two studio assistants in Portland help him avoid heavy lifting.
Harris's Web site (www.members.tripod.com/media56/id2.htm) includes images of several earlier sculptures (none of which will be shown in Eugene) with titles such as "Homage to Charlie Parker Noun 1. Charlie Parker - United States saxophonist and leader of the bop style of jazz (1920-1955)
Bird Parker, Charles Christopher Parker, Parker, Yardbird Parker ," "Homage to the Muskogee Indians" and "Mississippi Burning" that suggest identification with African-Americans and other minorities.
But he cautions against reading too much into any artist's labels.
`My work doesn't say `African-American,' ' he says. "It's universal. I don't particularly believe in classifying art. Art is art, and mine is hard to classify. I really don't believe that artists should put themselves in a corner like that. I'll stand on what I do."
And if some of his sculptures show African influence, he says, he's definitely not alone in that.
"All modern art is derivative from Africa," he says. "Back in the 1920s, European artists needed a whole different way of looking at art. They had to be re-infused. Picasso, Henry Moore Noun 1. Henry Moore - British sculptor whose works are monumental organic forms (1898-1986)
Henry Spencer Moore, Moore , Braque, Brancusi, have all taken from African art African art, art created by the peoples south of the Sahara.
The predominant art forms are masks and figures, which were generally used in religious ceremonies. ."
Harris has lectured at the University of Oregon The University of Oregon is a public university located in Eugene, Oregon. The university was founded in 1876, graduating its first class two years later. The University of Oregon is one of 60 members of the Association of American Universities. on African-Americans in Europe and the United States, and he'll do so again at the Jacobs Gallery at 1:30 p.m. March 13. He says the lecture will cover artists from 1865 to the present, including "the new superstar of American sculptors," Martin Puryear Martin Puryear (born May 23, 1941) is an African American sculptor. He was born in Washington, D.C., and he spent his youth studying practical crafts, learning how to build guitars and furniture. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966. .
Harris is a member of the Swedish Sculptors Association and one of a few African-American members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the nation's second-oldest artists association. He has had exhibits in Sweden and Europe and has shown his work at the University of Oregon, in a three-man show with Eugene artist Harold Hoy and California artist Richard Chavez about 2 1/2 years ago.
Harris markets his work through dealers in Stockholm, New York Stockholm is a town in St. Lawrence County, New York, United States. The population was 3,592 at the 2000 census. The name was assigned by surveyors from Stockholm in Sweden.
The Town of Stockholm is in the northeast part of the county and is northeast of Potsdam. and London.
He says that when he talks to young artists, he advises them to think outside Eugene, to broaden their vision.
"You really want to be national and international," he says. "If you stay within a small community, you get too self-satisfied. You need to broaden your stage so you can get broader criticism. Criticism never hurt anyone."
Harris says he was "a very lucky man" to have family financial support at the beginning of his career. He advises younger artists not to expect to get rich, especially as a sculptor.
"Most people can't afford sculpture," he says. "I can't even afford my own work."
Harris, who has done some teaching over the years, is troubled to see so many students coming out of master of fine arts Noun 1. Master of Fine Arts - a master's degree in fine arts
master's degree - an academic degree higher than a bachelor's degree but lower than a doctor's degree programs today as conceptual artists "with really nothing to say."
"I'm not saying you have to do art to please people," he says, but people go to galleries and museums "to see something; there has to be some meat there."
Paul Denison can be reached at 338-2323 or email@example.com.
ART SHOW PREVIEW
Jerry Harris: Sculptures and Collages
Where: Jacobs Gallery, downstairs at the Hult Center.
When: Gallery talk 3 p.m. Friday, reception 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday; normal gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Show will continue through April 10.
Also: Harris will lecture on "African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. Artists: The European and American Experience" at 1:30 p.m. March 13 in the Jacobs Gallery.
Harris describes his work as "abstract, often surreal."