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Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect's Brother

February 5 - April 4, 2005

ParkeHarrison's work considers the state, and possible fate, of the Earth. He came of age in a United States newly altered by environmental awareness, which encourage personal and cultural commentary by artists of all media. Trained as a photographer, ParkeHarrison did not follow in the well-practiced wake of environmentally-charged photojournalists or social documentarians, whose cautionary tales were fixed in the present day and did not project a future. Instead, ParkeHarrison conjured a destiny in which humankind's overuse of the land has led to a spent and abandoned environment, inhabited by one indefatigable spirit (portrayed by ParkeHarrison). Donning the ill-fitting suit of the Everyman, ParkeHarrison is the earthbound relation of the Creator—the Architect's Brother—complete with human foibles. With lyric poeticism and wry humor, he is the romantic anti-hero, taking up tasks of preservation that appear futile: he attempts to patch holes in the sky, construct rain machines, and chase storms to create electricity. While doing so, ParkeHarrison also lays the foundation for the potential redemption of the natural world.

" I love to try to capture that quality of the Earth looking like the world's just started or been destroyed and is starting all over again -- that feeling of being way back in the past or way ahead in the future," ParkeHarrison explained in an ArtNews interview in March 2001. "Some of these acts are impossibilities, of course, or dreams, like controlling the weather. What would that be like&?hellip;A lot of people can associate with this character because he's not heroic. He's slightly failing. Maybe when we see someone like this who isn't idealizes and is sort of sad, we identify."

Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect's Brother is divided into five different sections: Exhausted Globe, Industrial Landscapes, Promisedland, Earth Elegies, and Kingdom. He has been influenced by photographers Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Oscar Rejlander, and Timothy O. Sullivan, Lucas Samaras and Ruth T. Thorne-Thomsen. His inspiration has come from Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and George Orwell, along with personalities from theater and cinema. Each image takes about five weeks to create and begins with notes and drawings made in a sketchbook, as well as library research. ParkeHarrison then builds the set and the props and photographs a carefully-staged image.

ParkeHarrison's work has received wide critical acclaim. His wife Shana collaborates with him to produce the work and is credited as artist in recent work. Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect's Brother was organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film with the support of the Bulrush Foundation. The Architect's Brother has been published as a monograph by Twin Palms Press and accompanies the exhibition.

  • Funded in part by the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum, the UW Art Department, Wyoming Public Radio, and the Wyoming Arts Council through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming State Legislature.


Left: Robert ParkeHarrison, Da Vinci's Wings, 1998, 44.72 x 38.6 inches, gelatin silver print and mexied medium on panel, copyright Robert ParkeHarrison. Courtesy of the artist and Bonni Benrubi Gallery.

Center: Robert ParkeHarrison, Mending the Earth, 1999, gelatin silver print and mixed media on panel, 40-1/4 x 46-3/4 inches, copyright Robert Parke Harrison. Courtesy of the artist and Bonni Benrubi Gallery.

Right: Robert ParkeHarrison, Garden of Selves, 1999, gelatin silver print and mixed media on panel, 40.88 x 47.76 inches, copyright Robert Parke Harrison. Courtesy of the artist and Bonni Benrubi Gallery.

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