carolyn harper

My work has a strong social justice component to it as I create images of people or groups who have been marginalized, discriminated against, or abused. The works provide faces to those who are faceless, nameless and powerless, and bear witness to those who are suffering. The beauty that the artistic process brings to the images creates a tension with the inherent cruelty of the lives of the subjects; in admiring the works, the viewer becomes almost complicit in their abuse and neglect. 

 

hand embroidered batik
hand embroidered batik
hand embroidered batik
hand embroidered batik
watercolor and embroidery on cotton
hand embroidered watercolor on cotton
hand embroidered watercolor on cotton
hand embroidered batik
hand embroidered batik

“It’s not just that we are morally impotent; the continuation of our comfortable lives rests on the continuation—on the success—of that impotence. We see suffering only intermittently, and our days make safe spaces for these interruptions.” James Wood

 

watercolor portrait
watercolor on paper
watercolor on paper
watercolor portrait
watercolor on paper

These large format, hand made quilts can be seen within the context of ‘craftivism’: a term coined in 2003 by writer Betsy Greer which can be defined as “a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.” Craft has traditionally been viewed as ‘women’s work’ and as such was marginalized and undervalued, but the craft techniques in my work can be seen as subverting the traditional genre of portraiture. Piecing fabric together creates an image that is quite different, and less real, than a painting, which oftentimes seeks to imitate and/or idealize the person being portrayed. Instead, I have searched to find the individual and emotional human character of each individual, and to heed the words of Paul Klee: “Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.”

 

Batik and hand dyed fabric that has been pieced and appliquéd
Subscribe to carolyn harper