Jen P. Harris
My work engages with the quandary of modern unrest and uncertainty through the language of myth. In intricately layered paintings, I combine ancient motifs, contemporary symbols and geometric structures, transforming them into vivid scenes of complexity.
[Codes] reveals a chimerical universe where the profusion of information that defines modern life intersects with timeless rhythms of life, death and the rise and fall of civilizations. MMXV, cornerstone of this exhibition, takes the form of a hexagonal wall installation of ink paintings affixed to tessellating diamond-shaped wood blocks. Referencing patterns found in Islamic art, utopian architecture, traditional American craft and biological structures, the tessellating design in my work becomes an emblem of both stability and flux.
Since 2012 I’ve been exploring images produced by diverse cultures in response to uncertainty and the unknown. This work merges ancient and recent philosophies, mythologies, and iconography into a new contemporary belief system of my imagination. The ouroboros (the image of a snake eating its own tail), a central character in MMXV and other recent works, is an ancient symbol of cycles and re-creation found in nearly all the world’s mythologies and religions. The politically acute skeletal figures of the calaveras, now closely linked with the Mexican Day of the Dead, have roots in a potent tradition of Latin American satire. Tarot, a 15th-century card game later adopted by occultists and mystics as a map of mental and spiritual paths, is a rich set of images that emerged fully-formed in Europe during the turbulent transition from Late Medieval to early Modern periods. I’ve borrowed and recast abiding images such as these, intertwining them with familiar contemporary symbols evoking the Digital Revolution, genetics, and the ongoing “war” on terror: binary codes, genetic codes, American military drones. These are all elements in an expanding visual alphabet I employ to articulate the collision of modern technological and military-industrial development with the immutable fact of our mortality, our spiritual longings, and our desire to see into the future and understand our past.
The thread that runs through all my work is an engagement with knotty philosophical and spiritual questions and a desire to push formal and conceptual boundaries through continuous experimentation. Ultimately, I seek to forge enduring poetry from remnants of a broken world.