Much has been written about Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, the husband and wife duo who met as students in New Mexico. She was studying dance and metalsmithing, while he was focused on photography. Within a few years of graduating, they gained instant recognition for their collaborative works that presented constructed and choreographed scenarios about mans effect on the landscape. More than twenty years later, the artists are still dedicated to the environment, showing us the power of nature, and the effect our actions have on it. By creating environments specifically to photograph, the artists address issues about the earth and our responsibility to heal the damage we’ve created, while investigating the human condition. This ideology has remained a constant, and is why they are so greatly admired.
Their newest series, Precipice, combines their love of theater and performance. In each image, we see a man bearing witness to his own desires and struggles. This can be seen time and again in the nine pieces in this series. In Downpour, 2015 we see a man balanced on a ladder, creating the sky, only to lose grip on his tools which fall to the ground; in Soliloquy, 2015 an actor stands on the edge of the stage, surveying the tornado ridden carnage of a lost theater; in Nature Morte, 2015 a table is covered with decaying flowers, as someone places a framed version on the wall of what they looked like prior to their demise; in First of May, 2015 a man crouches between two huge megaphones, listening for wisdom from the barren landscape that surrounds him; and in the title piece, Precipice, 2015 a man stands on the edge of a cliff, honoring the lone tree before him, humbled by its overwhelming scale. In all of these majestic photographs, the environment is larger than man, reminding the viewer that we need to listen, pay attention and care for our surroundings. As the artists state:
“The stage offers endless narrative possibilities and favors contradictions – hope and despair, desire and failure… to explore the fragile human condition, and the overarching shadow of environmental destruction. Perhaps the only true hope for our world and our human spirit rests in our ability to imagine.”
Robert ParkeHarrison received a Guggenheim Fellow in 1999 and Robert and Shana received the Nancy Graves Fellowship in 2007, among many other awards. The Architect’s Brother was published in 2000 (Twin Palms Twelve Trees Press), and is now in its eighth edition. Their second book, Counterpoint, was published in 2008 (Twin Palms Publishers). Their works are included in numerous museum collections including Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX), the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House (Rochester, NY), Nelson-Atkins Museum (Kansas City, MO), and Mudam Luxembourg – MusÉe d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Luxembourg).