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Jen P. Harris Solo Exhibition at Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Jen P. Harris, Pacific (American Kiss), 2009. Oil on linen, 60” x 80”. Photo: Susan Alzner. Courtesy of the Artist.

WILMINGTON, DE.- The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts presents New York-based artist Jen P. Harris’s solo exhibition titled Conversations, on view in Dupont II Gallery through March 21, 2010. Conversations is an exhibition of paintings and works on paper of images that are reinterpretations of Hollywood depictions of romances or composites of visual information found in magazines, on the Internet, or in the artist’s digital camera with which she gives form to indeterminate but suggestive narrative and psychological content.

Jen P. Harris paints contemporary portraits of love: pairs of people who are locked in tight embraces, twins or mirror images of the same person, and men holding children. Carina Evangelista, DCCA Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art, states that Harris “paints [love] in a gamut of incarnations and ambiguities, with a register that ranges from observation and interpretation, to reserve, indulgence, caricature, and even cryptology.” In the American Kiss series, Harris paints what she refers to as reinterpretations of “the familiar Hollywood image of romance, presenting couples in a cinematic light.” Using saturated colors and setting the couples on a grassy knoll, in a moonlit garden, or with the ocean as a backdrop, these paintings portray languid moments and, as Evangelista notes, they could be “pulp fiction covers, light romance film stills, or the album cover for a record that might include songs with titles like ‘Now and Forever.’” Closer scrutiny reveals that the couples are androgynous; and Harris states that she employs “a skewed gravitational and perspectival scheme, along with an obscuring of the physical boundaries and features of the body” in order to illustrate “the psychosomatic aspects of human intimacy.” By placing gay couples in the long tradition of figuration in painting, she portrays the physical reality of love between two individuals, regardless of their gender.

If American Kiss is immediately recognizable, with the near kitsch representations of romance, Conversation is more enigmatic, featuring mirrored images of the same person to explore the mysteries of selfhood and sexuality. Extracting figures from different fashion magazine photographs of the same model, Harris states that she hopes to “challenge expectations about culturally familiar imagery” and the doubles in this series channel her thinking “about reflection, opposition, attraction, doubt, and the illusory nature of a unified self.”

Two paintings, each featuring a man holding a baby, throw light on a different angle of love: the possibility of parental love between father and child. The images were also collaged from different sources and thus exude a slight dissonance. Neither man is shown with respective male or female partner but within the context of her other works, notions of the complex realities and unwarranted persecution of parenthood for gay and lesbian couples are the subtext. Evangelista concludes that Harris “paints love in its quirky, sometimes obvious and sometimes obscure permutations, for the love of painting, tipping her hat to the great masters of figure painting and candidly expanding the conversations among the many examples of love portrayed.”

JEN P. HARRIS (Booklyn, NY) received her MFA from Queens College, City University of New York, and her BA from Yale University. She has had solo exhibitions at the Mooney Center Exhibit Hall at The College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, NY; Paul Klapper Gallery, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, NY; and Studio 56, New Haven CT. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions at venues including the Summer Festival in Wassaic, NY; Gallery 151, New York, NY; Coagula Projects and The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA; and Antelope Valley College, Lancaster, PA. Among the awards she has received are grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council, the E.D. Foundation, and the Robert C. Bates Traveling Fellowship; selection in the Drawing Center Viewing Program; the Maryland Artists’ Equity Foundation Exhibition Award; and a residency from the Vermont Studio Center.

Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts | Jen P. Harris | Conversations |

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