Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison gained instant recognition for their collaborative works shortly after graduate school when they began constructing and choreographing scenarios about mans effect on the landscape. In these stagings, Robert would dress in a black suit and starched white shirt, often referenced as the Everyman, and interact with the land, creating environmental performances. These surreal images addressed issues about the earth and mankind's responsibility to heal the damage he created, and can be seen in their well-regarded first monograph, The Architect's Brother, and in their second book of color images, Counterpoint.
Their newest series, Gautier’s Dream, marks a return to b&w imagery that reveals their love of opera, dance and cinema. Inspired by French artist, writer and critic, Théophile Gautier, these new works explore dramas that unfold in front of an audience and behind the velvet curtain. Their Everyman, once obsessed with saving the earth, now breathes in the earth, his face inhabited by sunflowers and daffodils (The Lover); becomes a collector of moths/butterflies by listening to them (Thief of Paris); and turns into a willing puppet, dressed in a top hat, awaiting his grand entrance (Apparition of Mallarmé). As the artists state:
“Our everyman balances on a small circus platform as he breaks from his burden of salvaging a dying world. These unexpected visual moments are not necessarily what the Everyman signed up for. But he partakes in the timelessness of ritual and make-believe. It is a world only slightly removed from his standard tasks. In fact, outside, beyond the velvety curtains and spangled chandeliers, we see the very the landscape he often tirelessly tries to rejuvenate and repair. The stage offers endless narrative possibilities and favors contradictions – hope and despair, desire and failure… to explore the fragile human condition, and the overarching shadow of environmental destruction. Perhaps the only true hope for our world and our human spirit rests in our ability to imagine.”
Robert ParkeHarrison received a Guggenheim Fellow in 1999 and Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison received the Nancy Graves Fellowship in 2007. The Architect's Brother was published in 2000 (Twin Palms Twelve Trees Press), and is now in its seventh edition. Their color work can be seen in Counterpoint (Twin Palm Press, 2008). Their works are included in numerous museum collections including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston) and the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House (Rochester, NY).