Image Credit: Undergrowth (2006) Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison
Much has been written about Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, the husband and wife team whose sepia toned photographic tableaus took the art world by storm more than eight years ago. In their new work, which introduces color into the palette, the ParkeHarrisons continue to immerse themselves in myth, rituals, and the relationship between man (and new to the work, a young female), nature and technology.
ParkeHarrison came of age in a United States newly altered by environmental awareness, which encouraged personal and cultural commentary by artists of all media. Trained as a photographer, ParkeHarrison did not follow in the well-practiced wake of environmentally charged photojournalists or social documentary photographers, whose cautionary tales were fixed in the present day and did not project a future. Instead, ParkeHarrison conjured a destiny in which humankind’s overuse of the land had led to environments spent and abandoned, with the exception of one indefatigable spirit (portrayed by ParkeHarrison himself). Donning the ill-fitting suit of the Everyman, ParkeHarrison is the earthbound relation to the Creator-the Architect’s Brother-complete with human foibles. With lyric poeticism and wry humor, he is the romantic anti-hero, taking up tasks of preservation that appear futile, yet also lay the foundation for the potential redemption of the natural world. Placing himself within the images, ParkeHarrison attempts to patch holes in the sky, construct rain-making machines, and chase storms to create electricity.
Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect’s Brother is divided into five different sections: “Exhausted Globe,” “Industrial Landscapes,” “Promisedland,” “Earth Elegies,” and “Kingdom.” The exhibition draws its title from ParkeHarrison’s book of the same name, voted One of the 10 Best Photography Books of the Year in 2000 by The New York Times.
ParkeHarrison’s inspirations include Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and George Orwell, as well as personalities from theater and cinema. Each ParkeHarrison photograph-which takes roughly five weeks to create-starts with notes and drawings made in a sketchbook, as well as library research. He then builds the set and the props and photographs a carefully staged image. An assortment of original sketches and actual props will be on display in the Process Gallery, a hands-on learning space designed by DeCordova’s Education Department.
ParkeHarrison is represented by the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York City. He resides in Great Barrington and teaches photography at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, both in Massachusetts. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Kansas City Art Institute, where he met his wife and artistic collaborator, Shana. ParkeHarrison earned his MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico, where he was inspired by Native American cultures and myths. As his creative partner, Shana is involved in the conception and execution of her husband’s images, which are created using both traditional and non-traditional photographic processes.
This traveling exhibition of over forty works is organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film with support from the Bulrush Foundation. The DeCordova presentation is supported by funding from the Lois and Richard England Family Foundation. The exhibition is accompanied by the 136-page book, Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect’s Brother, published by Twin Palms Publishers.
– from the Press Room of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park.