Sharon Harper, Professor Emerita, is exhibiting a new body of work at Missouri Southern State University’s Spiva Gallery. “A Solitary Year” will be on view May 18 – June 17, 2022. Harper will present an artist talk on June 16 at 5 pm with a reception in the gallery at 6 pm.
Harper’s work as a visual artist is rooted in personal narrative. While the focus and media of her work has changed over the years, it has always involved the immediate issues of life both internally and externally. Death, the solitude of the pandemic, family relationships, body aging are just a few of the themes that are on view in this exhibit. She uses a variety of media including different types of papers, graphite, vellum, ink, colored pencil, fabrics – both ethereal and durable, and ceramic.
“The last few years, from the start of the pandemic to now, have included increased introspection,” says Harper. “During the beginning of the pandemic when groceries were washed and the mail was quarantined, life slowed down. Travel ceased but tensions were high. The ensuing isolation led to a more inward turning of subjects. The isolation of the pandemic amplified and reverberated the feeling of my brother’s death in 2017. My thoughts and images ruminated on being the last person in my nuclear family and losing my identity as a daughter or sister. This translated into the emptiness of dark windows in a storage building or just solitude, knowing your family is gone and you are left as the keeper of the stories.”
These thoughts found their way into large scale drawings of multiple mediums, found papers, such as maps, that talk about Harper’s journey. Pattern instructions for clothing construction also were incorporated to suggest how to put things together. She uses pattern paper which is light, wrinkled, and transparent like aging skin. Images of boats describe her journey and “also represents the tension of an object that both keeps me afloat while creating a sense of aloneness and being adrift.”
The work in this exhibit called ‘Solitary Year’ is actually representative of the last few years of time which according to Harper have “stretched and shifted”.
Professor Harper has an MFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts. Her work has been in hundreds of exhibitions and has received numerous awards. She has been awarded many artist residencies: Truro Center for the Arts, Ucross Foundation, Millay Foundation, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, and Prairie Center for the Arts.