The Architect’s Brother

Shana & Robert Parkeharrison


8 - 18 December 2018
Venue: One Eleven Gallery

Our imagery appears timeless, otherworldly and surreal. Employing a poetic visual language, we layer our work with multi-meanings and interpretations. This work continues our 20-year investigation of the triangular interaction of nature, technology and human existence. As collaborative artists we work within the tradition of tableau photography. We transform our prints using hands-on painterly techniques, thus freeing our photographs from traditional conventions of photography.

Shana & Robert Parkeharrison

Since the mid 1990’s we’ve worked as collaborative artists to create elaborately staged photographic and sculptural works of art. Our work explores the complex relationship linking humans, nature and technology. Throughout each body of work we create, this triangular narrative ebbs and flows. We use this narrative as a way to explore our thoughts and feelings about how we – as humans – relate to nature, the earth and technology.

Throughout the history of Western civilization there has been a constant disconnect from nature and the earth. It wasn’t until we lived in the vast high desert region of New Mexico and spent time studying Native American culture and religion that we realized this powerful disconnection present in our contemporary existence. This was a pivotal time in our lives and we discovered a deep connection with landscape and nature. Our collaboration took root once we began creating works of art related to the environment. During this time we studied how the Hopi performed seasonal rituals and ceremonies to honor the spirits who they believe control of the balance of earth. In their rituals they use water as a mystical element to ensure rainfall in the desert. Just a few generations ago, humans were much more connected to the changes in the seasons and balance of nature. We believe the disconnection from nature has led to great damage to our earth and our own human spirit.

Upon moving to New England we continued our work of choreographing visual theatrical scenarios before the camera. The deep connections we made by living in New Mexico remained in our artistic vision. Each image we created focused on civilization’s effect on the landscape. In these scenes civilization is portrayed through a singular male character (played by RPH). We refer to this figure as the “constant protagonist.” This contemporary white male protagonist, dressed in a symbolic black suit and white shirt, acts out human folly, hope and futility. His actions and identity are – at times archetypal and varying from, Earth’s protector, healer, communicator, and destroyer. He interacts with the land using low-tech and futile rituals.

From 1993-2003 we developed an extensive body of work entitled The Architect’s Brother. We consider this work layered with meaning: open-ended visual narratives, metaphoric and evoking issues of the earth and mankind’s responsibility to heal it. Throughout each image in this series we try to portray an environment and atmosphere that is both dystopian and haunting. We created each image in this series using a 19th century process known as paper negatives. Working exclusively in analog photography rather than digital we infused drawing and collage into this paper negative process. After printing each image we worked back over the photograph with mixed media techniques and varnish. This manipulative process offered us the ability to transform realistic photographic images into surreal images. This body of work conveys our affinity for photographic history.

Beginning in 2004, we shifted away from antiquated photographic processes and began utilizing digital photographic technology combined with painting techniques. During this time we lived in the rural surroundings of the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts. The dense forests and abundant floral and fauna along with the dramatic seasonal changes and agricultural environment informed this work. We staged ambiguous narratives within the landscapes near our home and created strange scenes of hybridizing forces, swarming elements, and bleeding overabundance. We portray Nature unleashed by technology and the human hand. In work from this period we use color in an intentional but abstract manner; proportion and space are compositional rather than natural; movement is blurred; objects and people juxtaposed as if by chance in a visual improvisation that unfolds choreographically. We wanted to create images that were more immediate and visceral and differed from our earlier aesthetics found within the Architect’s Brother series.

In 2011 we investigated the history of opera, dance and cinema. Inspired by the French artist, writer and critic, Théophile Gautier, we began developing a series of heavily constructed tableau images within the interior space of our studio rather than staging images in vast landscapes. This way of working offered us the opportunity to intricately constructed sets embellished with painted dioramic landscapes and layered curtains. The constant protagonist character (once obsessed with saving the earth) is portrayed through archetypal actions derived from theatrical history and film and chance methods. In a recent series entitled Precipice, we continue exploring theatrical themes through the creation of intricate carnival-like sets. We portray the constant protagonist bearing witness to his own desires and struggles. He confronts failure and the human condition, often shown at the edge of failing, falling or healing. In these photographs, the environment is larger than the protagonist, reminding the viewer that we need to listen, pay attention and care for our surroundings.

Since 2013 we have focused on creating several series including Precipice , Acts Without Words, and we took on the Wall at WAM, with our monolithic piece titled, These Days of Maiuma. We invite you to visit our website, to view the many works we have created beyond our Architect’s Brother Series.