Tales of Modern Experience: Art of Robert and Shana Parkeharrison

In a world saturated almost to extinction by images, Robert and Shana Parkeharrison s photographs offer a unique, poetic and haunting vision. The couple want to portray our shattered environmental world but not in any simple documentary way. Their photographs tell stories of human struggle, loss and exploration within landscapes seriously damaged by technology and exploitation. The images “strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.” (Robert Parkeharrison).

Their stark, often monochromatic photographs – such as The Architect’s Brother (1993-2005) series – are not simply taken but are fabricated in a time-consuming manner; the artists use performance and sculpture (man-made contraptions) to create the images as well as various darkroom and printing techniques. Robert plays ‘the Everyman’ in each photograph, engaged in strange, ritualistic tasks or in symbolic attempts to save our polluted planet. In Mending the Earth (1999) the man kneels on a desolate earth with a huge needle, trying to sew fissures in the earth back together. In Book of Life (2001) he has a huge open book the pages of which seem woven with plants.

Mending the Earth 1999
The Book of Life 2001
Burn Season 2003

These are complex photographs with an antiquated look and with mythic resonance. “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. Through my work I explore technology and a poetry of existence. These can be very heavy, overly didactic issues to convey in art, so I choose to portray them through a more theatrically absurd approach.” (Robert ParkeHarrison).

Lucid Dream 2003
The Visitation 2000
Cloudburst 2001

More photographs can be seen at the artists’ website at http://www.parkeharrison.com/

A short video of the couple talking about their work http://vimeo.com/12897298

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