“I get absolutely obsessed. I have such respect for each object. Painting trains you to really look. And when you can see, everything becomes miraculous.”
- Penelope Harris
The true beauty of Penelope Harris’ work is in the wonder of things. In Fully Assembled, the artist builds upon her celebrated career of vibrant and meticulously rendered artworks with a new collection of paintings and drawings created in Harris’ favorite media including gouache, oil paint, pastel, and charcoal. Despite the range of media, each piece shares Harris’ signature attention to detail. Her curiously chosen groupings offer surprises and endlessly delightful discoveries that engage further beyond their elegant presentations.
Although stylistic trends have shifted throughout her decades-long practice, Harris has faithfully developed her observational still life motif. In this current body of work, Harris offers a more reserved presentation versus the busy patterning of her earlier paintings – favoring elegance over drama. Each collection of objects begins to tell a story that might lead towards the metaphysical, political, or psychological. However, just as meaning begins to take shape, the thread unravels, revealing Harris’ commitment to things as they merely are.
Every inch of the substrate is equally touched and refined as blank walls, chromatic negative spaces, and cast shadows set the stage for a particular ensemble. The objects are placed with care into a scene that is balanced and structured through shape, color, and value.
Harris’ sense of humor is evident, and she often plays games of perception, at times propping up one side of a table to force a more extreme perspective to take place, or by placing objects on translucent stands to make them “float”. For a moment, the scenes become surreal until closer inspection reveals the laws of physics at work, grounding everything back within the natural world. Clever titles and visual puns quietly wink from within her otherwise serious and masterful depictions. Her paintings require careful looking, and that is indeed when we see how “everything becomes miraculous”.
Harris is the daughter of two successful New York artists, and while her parents did not intentionally encourage her to seek a career in the arts, she was drawn to that path. After first pursuing Interior Design, Harris’ passion switched to Studio Art while attending a painting class at the Woodmere Art Museum. Harris attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as well as Studio Incamminati.
Harris’ works are featured in private and public collections, including the Woodmere Museum of Art. She has exhibited in numerous regional group and solo shows. This is her fifth solo exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery since 1983.