July 22 to September 6, 1992
Our heritage, our expression of self, is one of collective consciousness. It is riddled with change and the production of art makes visible these continuous changes in our thinking and feeling. These tangible outpourings are often an expression of very personal values coupled with an interpretation of our own feelings – feelings that require parameters but demand knowledge beyond the known.
Since the Renaissance, art has moved away from religious representation to embody the intellectual and philosophical theories of the day. Artists have become self-conscious and individual. Spencer J. Harrison has said that his work is about passion taken to the point where passion is almost painful. (Like religious fervor, emotional pain embodies the potential for transcendence.) This emotional quest takes the artist to an uneasy intuitive threshold: nothing can ever be perfect.
For Harrison, the image of a boat has become a token of an ideal. The boats he paints portray the spiritual nature of his being and their relationship to his sexuality. The literal utilitarian potential of a boat dictates its use as a vessel for movement on water. That it is a vessel, a vacuous receptacle, ensures its sedulous authority to transport and be filled. In the majority of Harrison’s paintings the boat is empty, soliciting from the viewer the urge to claim that uninhabited space. Thus, we are engaged in Harrison’s seductive quest for the vessel’s enigmatic codes.
Harrison has said that “the boats appear empty and adrift, often within an undesirable landscape. Metaphorically, however, these boats are not empty, but act as ambiguous vessels containing spiritual attributes.” Though the boats are situated in melancholic and desolate landscapes, their cargos, while not exclusively figurative, are always emotive. For Harrison, the boat is a metaphoric transport of yearning desire taken to the threshold of intimacy and honesty. Harrison uses the boat both as a decorative symbol, satisfying his idea of what is perfect, and as a vessel filled with emotional facts or codes. It functions as a mnemonic key, or touchstone of self.
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