Memphis, TN | Painting, Sculpture, Mixed Media, Performance, Installation, Video
Erin Harmon was raised in the suburbs of Southern California where the natural desert was sated by hundreds of miles of aqueducts to produce obsessively groomed lawns. After graduating from San Diego State University with a BA in Studio Art, she received her MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design. Erin currently lives in the verdant and fecund Tennessee Delta where kudzu and coal sludge can swallow everything in their path and where she is Associate Professor of Art at Rhodes College. Erin has exhibited her work nationally in both group and solo exhibitions in venues including Field Projects. NY; the Sarah Doyle Gallery, Providence RI; LAUNCH Gallery, Los Angeles; Atlanta Artists Center & Gallery, GA; the Parthenon Museum, Nashville, TN; and The Brooks Museum, Memphis, TN. She was included in the book Remixing and Drawing: Sources, Influences, Styles (Mueller, Ellen; Routledge Press, 2018). In 2014, she debuted her first theatrical set design for Ballet Memphis’ River Project: Moving Currents which profoundly influenced the work she is making today. Erin is a founding member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles.
Erin Harmon’s work dwells in the twilight zone between painting and sculpture. Filled with longing for places that do not actually exist, contradictions flourish with invocations of both the animated and the arrested, the joyful and the staid, the high and the low. Material and processes become sites for fantasy, illusion, and the interplay between flat and not-flat. In her most recent work, Harmon tinkers with scale to produce environments that we can project ourselves into as landscapes, even while confronting their qualities of un-nature.
Borne from Harmon’s previous body of painted paper collages, her new work is influenced by techniques common to theatrical painters, a lineage of shapes and images become a trail of breadcrumbs from one idea to another. In 2014, Harmon was invited to design a theatrical set in collaboration with Choreographer and Ballet Memphis Artistic Director Steven McMahon. The resultant performance “Flyway” from the ballet River Project III: Moving Currents was an experience that spawned work on a larger scale and with materials often used in set design such as latex theatrical paint and muslin. Her materials are scoured, drawn, painted, cut, and recycled over time, one idea begetting another, endlessly self-generating. Whether it be through ceramic, painted muslin, or projection animation (a collaborative video with artist and musician Kyle Statham), the finished works encapsulate a romance with materials and processes.
Related to theatrical spaces, the works in her most recent exhibition Aggregate Optics of Make-A-Do function as sites for an event or performance. Yet, while conspicuously absent of humans, their uncanny existence exerts control over the viewer as actor, prescribing the way they move through space. Both the eye and the body at large are taken over in perceptual ways. Even the act of making the painted canvas works, due to their scale, become performative. They must be stood on while being made, which posits Harmon literally in the painting as a figure in her own landscape.
Oscillating between celebratory yet also oppressive, the works create a tension between the joyful liberation of conjuring a new, not-nature and the estranged sense of an unreality that has been manufactured. Harmon is interested in the idea of a place as a thing and a thing as a place.