Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Conversation With Brian Harmon

Artwork from "The Fear of Forgetting." installation.

Brian Harmon,an artist from Taylor Mill, Kentucky, delights eyes with his photographic and installation artwork. Harmon, an artist and educator, uses his artwork as a means to communicate themes such as memory, memory loss and archiving. He took time out of his schedule to speak with ArtSeen about his artwork and his artistic methods.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?

My work is generally a combination of photography and installation.  Large prints, alternative printing surfaces and non-traditional display methods are all in my bag of tricks.  I prefer to shoot mostly with medium format film but scan and print digitally.
What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?
I am inspired to create art as a means of communication.  I’m not the most outgoing or talkative individual.  However, I have a lot to say.  My art gives me way to speak volumes to a large audience without having to ever open my mouth.

Artwork from "The Fear of Forgetting." installation.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?
Recently, I have been exploring the concepts of memory, memory loss and the archive.  I have had several close relatives lose their entire personal histories to dementia.  The idea of this loss of the precious and how one might store up/insure against such loss has really resonated with me and has become the focus of my work over the past few years.  
Are there any artists that inspire you? If so who would they be and why?
Stephen Shore’s celebration of the banal has really inspired my photography.  I love how his American Surfaces work first looks so simplistic, yet narratives and cross-connections can spring from the images over and over again. 

Artwork from "The Fear of Forgetting." installation.
What’s the best and worst part about being an artist?

The best part about being an artist is having the opportunity to express yourself and put yourself into the world as visual objects to be read.  I wouldn’t take anything in exchange for this type of personal expression.   The worst part of being an artist is probably finding the venues to be able to display your work in order to facilitate this type of communication.  I love to create and am always making new work.  But, the goal is to share the work.  Without an audience, the work is nearly silenced. 
Artwork from "The Fear of Forgetting." installation.

What do you want viewers to walk away with when they view your artwork?
A piece of my artwork for which they paid me.  If not that, I would like to think that viewers leave an exhibition of my work with the feeling of having seen the world through a different lens, yet still relating to the work.  With my images, I try to shoot specific items/scenes but still in a way that they are generic enough for viewers to connect them to their own lives and personal histories.  
Artwork from "The Fear of Forgetting." installation.

 And finally, what advice would you give to other artists?

Create what inspires you.  Contemporary art trends are just that…trends.  Make your own artistic decisions and own them.    

Harmon's newest exhibit begins this February at the Covington Artisan Enterprise Center in Covington, Ky. For more information about the artist and his artwork visit his website for more details.

All photography provided by Brian Harmon.

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