The Art of Two Brothers
Todd Harper, water colorist and composer
Doug Harper, photographer and sociologist
This exhibition is dedicated to our parents, Norma and Herb Harper.
We grew up in a house filled with art, a bricolage of home-made expression. Our dad, Herb Harper, who spent his career as a biology teacher at Forest Lake High School, meticulously illustrated the guidebooks he wrote for his summer jobs as a State Park Naturalist and the articles he published in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. In his later decades he focused on mycology, and he used drawings and paintings to supplement the photos he made of the mushrooms he studied.
As a young mother Norma wove wool on a loom which she used to make clothes for her family. She also crocheted rugs and wall hangings that still decorate our homes. Her hooked run on the theme of mycology (based on Herb’s mushroom hunts) won an award at the Minnesota State Fair. In her later life she concentrated on ceramics. Our basement was a factory of ceramics production, where classes of ten or more women gathered most days of the week. The house was abuzz with these lively classes and her three large kilns were seldom cool. For mom, it was not whether a two-foot Santa for the front yard was “art,” rather it was that the women who made it saw it that way.
Our parents encouraged our pursuits of artful lives. While our approaches are different, we’ve realized that we’ve emulated our parents, who saw art in everyday life.
Todd’s contribution to the exhibition, entitled “Bird Myths,” blurs the boundaries between musical notation and fine art. His humorous depictions of birds are juxtaposed with musical scores. The musical scores are artistic depictions that bend and twist like the songs birds sing. The lyrics imagined as bird songs are humorous, ironic or philosophical. His birds have messages for us.
His paintings are meant to be viewed as fine art and to be used as scores for jazz improvisors who search for musical expressions suggested in the paintings. In this way the current show is a quantum leap forward for Todd, as it stimulates the collaboration of musicians who become temporary participants in his art projects. During one night of the exhibition Todd’s musician-colleagues will improvise bird songs as directed by Todd, using the exhibition prints as musical scores.
Doug’s contribution to the exhibition is entitled “Interpreting a Piazza.” This project began on his first trip to Bologna, Italy, in 1988, and has continued over twenty-nine trips back to the city over the past thirty-five years. He has focused on the central square of the city, Piazza Maggiore, to study the evolution of a traditional Italian city to a more complicated social reality in which tourism, mass consumption and multi-culturalism have replaced a traditional way of life.
Harper writes: “I photographed families playing, musicians performing, romantic partners kissing, protestors protesting, comedians performing, university graduates celebrating and tourists looking. I became attuned to what happened at different places in the piazza at different times day and night, week and season. I studied the history of the piazza, more than a thousand years old, and photographed the semiotic messages on the ancient walls and their clash with modern advertising signs and messages. As the years and decades passed I became ever more aware of the impact of tourism on the natural life in the piazza, and tourism itself became a subject of my camera.”
Todd Harper (born 1958) is an educator, musician, composer and artist. He is retired from teaching, and seeking fuller development of his art and music, and especially their interplay. His music has explored the boundaries between jazz and more experimental composition, and he has performed in venues in the Twin Cities for more than three decades. While he has explored and taught printmaking and drawing his entire adult life, in the past four years he has focused on watercolor. His work has been shown in several gallery exhibitions and art fairs.
Doug Harper (born 1948) is a professor of sociology whose work has been primarily in visual ethnography. As a sociologist he uses photography to explore the social world; as a photographer he seeks to make beautiful and compelling images. His several books explore topics including railroad tramps, migrants in Hong Kong, the work and soul of a backwoods mechanic and the semiotic messages of left-over fascist art and architecture in Rome. His 2023 book Visual Sociology provides an overview of his work over five decades. His photographs have been exhibited in universities galleries in several European countries and the U.S.
- From Thursday, 21 September 2023 02:00 PM to Saturday, 14 October 2023 06:00 PM