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Paul Rogers Harris: 50 Years in Art,
curated by Murray Smither
at Mountain View College's Gallery Hallway,
4849 West Illinois Ave, 214 860-8632,
through February 2, 2001

 

I never thought of myself as an artist

The idea for Paul Rogers Harris: 50 Years in Art began when I looked around my house and saw great sums of stuff. Having recently emptied a friend's house of a lifetime of collecting, I thought, "You really must begin to get rid of things so that someone else does not have to deal with all your treasured memorabilia." 

Self-Portrait 1949
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches

 

The boxes of clippings I brought back from New York as well as elementary and high school teaching notes of the 1950s, were an obvious way to begin the eliminating process. Of course, I'll keep the Mexican folk art and work that artists have given me. Then I remembered that I had my own work under the bed and in some friend's attic.

While I have been accepted in some competitions over the years, I had never really shown my work. I decided that it was worth showing and asked my friend, Murray Smither, to curate the exhibition. The first question he asked, "Do you have enough work?" After reviewing the third stack of paintings, drawings, photographs, and digital images, he began the selection process. It is difficult for an artist to select his best work so as Murray worked, I was determined not to comment on his selection. ("You're not going to use that one?" I said quietly under my breath.)

 

Joyeux Noel ( Self-Portrait ),c. 1956
linoleum cut, 9 x 3-1/2 inches

 

The Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees I received from North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) were in art with a minor in education. This degree program required that a course or two be taken in all the department's offerings. This allowed me to explore various media and learn about the major artists who used that medium. The Art Department stressed design as the foundation for all art so that the student could learn to evaluate a painting, photograph or sculptural object. This training was invaluable in developing a critical eye, rather than a skill in one area. 

 

Figure with Symbols, 1965
acrylic on canvas, 47 x 36 inches

 

With a certificate to teach, I could make a living although teaching had not been my early interest. After working as an office boy in an advertising company at 15, I wanted to be a graphic designer; however, my parents thought I should receive a liberal arts degree rather than attend a commercial art school. After teaching for six years, I was asked to be art director for the Little Red School House where Instructional Television for the Dallas Independent School District was produced and then broadcast by KERA-TV, Channel 13. This assignment gave me the chance to do graphic design, and, thereby opened the door to do free-lance work.

 

Social Discourse, 1965 / 1985
corks in type box
18-1/4 x 34-1/4 x 3-1/2 inches

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In 1965, I enrolled in New York University's art education program. At the same time I got a job at the Museum of Modern Art. While I didn't receive an Ed. D., I received what I call a "MoMA" because of the experience gained in working there. In 1970 I returned to Dallas to direct the Art Education Department at Southern Methodist University. While I was there I was asked to coordinate an exhibition about the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts that was curated by Douglas MacAgy, former director of the museum. In 1960 I deveolped an innovative children's program at DMCA.

 

Tag It, 1972
mixed media on wood
14-1/2 x 13-1/2 inches

  

After four years at SMU, I was invited to be director of The Art Center in Waco where I had full responsibility for developing an exhibition program. Selecting artists, their work, and engaging in exensive discussions with individual artists gave me the opportunity to fully understand the artist's exprience, his commitment to producing work, and his ability to close out the world in order to accomplish this. This experience reinforced my desire to continue my own experiments with an ever-widening variety of media.

This gave me the opportunity to fully understand the artist's experience, his commitment to producing work, and his ability to close out the world in order to do his work. I also felt that I should "keep my hand in" by doing some art work at the same time.

 

Figure with Plant, 1983
felt pen on paper
8-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches

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I was not concerned with showing or promoting my own efforts; in fact the thought never crossed my mind. I had long ago decided that I didn't have the drive or dedication to be an artist and I couldn't afford to just do art; however. My friend David McManaway, who would from time to time see something I'd done, would encourage me to do more. By necessity other commitments always took precedence and I never allowed myself to be an artist. 

 

Self-Portrait with Daddy Figures, 1997
Rainbow proof
10 x 8 inches
( Daddy Figures drawn by Paul's father )

 

Recently, in looking at the work as it was being framed, I was surprised at how good it looked. As I move toward the fourth period of life, I quote Hokusai, the Japanese painter, who said, "All that I have produced before the age of 70 . . . is not worth taking into account. . . . at 100, I shall certainly have reached a marvelous stage; and when I am 110, everything I do, be it a dot or a line, will be alive."*

* Teachout, Terry, "For More Artists, a Fine Old Age,"
The New York Times, April 1, 2000.
Taken from the Internet, April 3, 2000.

Graphic Design

Since this area had always interested me, I enjoyed the challenge of designing posters and brochures to be printed since the art I did for television was seen only for a few seconrds. I was recognized by local graphic designers and asked to join their associations. It was exciting to be with those professionals I had long admired. I also enjoyed the extra income that allowed me to take some nice trips to Europe.
 

Collage, Assemblage
and Conceptual Art

Since I couldn't "draw," i.e., make a realistic copy of something, I worked with materials such as corks and found objects rather than oil paint, and I experimented with different processes such as serigraphy. Awareness of new art forms would inspire a conceptual piece like, "Violated by NYC art," a piece of handmade paper left out in my New York apartment and "I have lived...," a list of places where I had lived since birth. I have used newspaper as a material and as a resource for images. The motivation may have come from the fact that many of my friends beginning with my college roommate were newspaper reporters and editors. I also worked on The Campus Chat, the college newspaper at the University of North Texas in Denton.

  

Figurative work

Throughout the exhibition there are many works using the human figure. I like people, I like to look at people — see how they move and what kind of gestures they use, observe their expressions and try to imagine what they are thinking. Most of all I like to listen to and talk with people.

 

The Victims, 2000
digital image print
8-7/8 x 7-1/8 inches

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Digital Imaging

The courses that I teach — 2D and 3D design — are the foundation for other visual arts: painting, drawing, printmaking, graphic and industrial design and others. The course introduces students to various tools, materials and processes used by artists and to the art vocabulary. Since I felt that the computer was another tool that should be part of their language, I enrolled in a photoshop class and through good fortune and the efforts of my chairman got computers for the classroom. As I became more and more familiar with the possibilities of the medium, I decided that I should do some work on my own.
 

What is the work about?

When I was in art school, the general rule was "If you can talk about it, you don't need to do it."
 

 

Paul speaks an edited version of this essay early at the opening of his show at Mountain View College. Later, this hallway converted to a gallery filled with people. I counted 137 near the peak. Many well-known artists, administrators and curators attended.

NAV BAR AT TOP

All art works on this page are copyright Paul Rogers Harris.
No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Writter
Permission of the Artist. Photographs by J R Compton

 

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