The Zug-John W. Hess Gallery hosted an opening reception for Cheryl Harper “Responses to Life as I Know It” Thursday, Jan. 19. Harper is a studio artist, art historian, print maker and sculptor who has been featured in galleries such as the James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia.
Harper is the recipient of many prestigious awards. She attended art school when she was 29 after graduating from a small liberal arts school. She talked about how going to both the small liberal school and the art school gave her much of her grounding as an artist today.
The exhibit in the Hess Gallery consists of three different parts that are all connected through the inspiration that comes to Harper.
“I follow political progression,” Harper said.
Her earliest work represents political subject matter. Once she decided she wanted to master the art of ceramic sculptures, she found that creating sculptures of Hillary Clinton was a fascination. She mentioned that, as people, we are only limited by our own ideas, which has shaped how she looked into the political process for her work.
Trained as a print maker, her earlier work focused primarily on large one-of-a-kind woodcuts. However, after several years, she decided to bring her graphic and narrative sensibility to sculpture. She wanted to explore a major difference in scale and medium.
“A trained artist can learn a new medium quickly,” Harper said.
Another part of work that is represented in the exhibit is social issues. In 2014 she did a series called “Convenient Vanities,” where she responded to the crisis of junk food in our culture through a sculptural take on “Vanitas,” the 17th century Dutch still life paintings that asked the viewer to consider the inevitability of death.
She has gone to the 7/11 down from her house to get supplies for these sculptures. Harper will go to a museum, or anywhere there is art on display, and she will just take pictures of the things that make her intrigued, and she’ll file it as a means of getting inspiration from other artists.
Recently Harper has been commenting on international terrorism and innocent bystanders. Her work “Soft Targets Wreath” speaks to these actions by assailants and the fate of their victims, the so called “soft targets” that make their havoc untenable. Also included is her work “Je suis” on paper.
“I pile information together and see what I want to do with it,” Harper said.
Finally, she included a new work about the women in her extended family, all of whom she’s known. In her husband’s family attic, she has found a wedding gown, a christening dress and beaded cuffs from an elopement dress.
The piece altogether represents the Suffragette movement, which also connects with the Clinton sculptures and the effort for a woman to become president in 2016.
Sophomore Jennifer Noyd described the featured art as “very colorful, bright, tangible and eccentric.”
“I want to touch everything,” sophomore Jenn Jackson said.
When working on a piece of art, Harper never sketches anything. She will have the idea fully formed in her mind and work it out. When she goes forward, the art tells her when it’s done, sometimes even before she can realize it is done, she said.
“Appreciating art is very important,” Harper said. “This isn’t typical work that I do, I want it to be challenging.”
The exhibit is open for viewing just inside the front doors of Zug until Mar. 11, 2017.