David R. Harper (1984 - )

Birth date: 1984 Death date:  
Birth location: Toronto, Canada Death location:  
Media: Ceramic Web site: http://www.davidrharper.com
None. -

Biographical Brief

David R. Harper (b. Toronto, Canada / lives and works in Sheboygan, Wisconsin), received his BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fiber and Material Studies.

Harper has been included in group shows at museums in the US and Canada, including MASS MoCA, National Gallery of Canada and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and has participated in numerous solo exhibitions including My Own Personal Ghost (The John Michael Kohler Art Center), Plateau (South Bend Museum of Art), Skin and Bone (Textile Museum of Canada). A solo touring exhibition of Harper's work titled Entre Le Chien et Le Loup was organized by the University of Toronto in 2013.

He has participated in several residencies including the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2016), Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (2014), and the Kohler Arts Industry (2012/2014).

His work can be found in a number of notable collections including the Museum of Arts and Design (NYC), the John Michael Kohler Art Center, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation (Los Angeles), and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Made during his 2012 residency at Arts/Industry program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, A Fear of Unknown Origins traveled with Harper's first traveling exhibition: Entre le Chien et le Loup from 2013-2015.

Comprised of seventy-two ceramic sculptures of animal heads glazed in various shades of blue, the installation includes bulls, wolves, pigs, apes, bears, cows, donkeys and sheep.

It was inspired by two things that seem completely unrelated: the first is an esoteric tool called the cyanometer.

A cyanometer (from cyan and -meter) is an instrument measuring "blueness," specifically the colour intensity of blue sky. It is attributed to Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and Alexander von Humboldt. It consists of squares of paper dyed in graduated shades of blue and arranged in a color circle or square that can be held up and compared to the color of the sky.

De Saussure is credited with inventing the cyanometer in 1789. De Saussure's cyanometer had 53 sections, ranging from white to varying shades of blue (dyed with Prussian blue) and then to back, arranged in a circle; he used the device to measure the color of the sky at Geneva, Chamonix and Mont Blanc. De Saussure concluded, correctly, that the color of the sky was dependent on the amount of suspended particles in the atmosphere.

Humboldt was also an eager user of the cyanometer on his voyages and explorations in South America.

The blueness of the atmosphere indicates transparency and the amount of water vapour.

The second source of inspiration is the idiom Entre le Chien et le Loup (between the dog and the wolf) which describes the effects of dusk and the difficulty humans can sometimes have in seeing—and comprehending—what’s around them.

Entre chien et loup is a multi-layered French expression. It is used to describe a specific time of day, just before night, when the light is so dim you can’t distinguish a dog from a wolf. However, it’s not all about levels of light. It also expresses that limit between the familiar, the comfortable versus the unknown and the dangerous (or between the domestic and the wild). It is an uncertain threshold between hope and fear.

In such situations often only the slightest variances can mean the difference between danger and safety. After all, some the animals listed above if described just by basic appearance, would be hard to distinguish; for example, cows and bulls, or wolves and dogs, could be described in very similar terms, but are obviously dissimilar in character. In other words, differences, be they of distance or danger, can be metaphorically reduced to shades of color; in this case, blue.

The ceramic masks were made from molds of the familiar masks that are used at Halloween or birthday parties. With this choice, Harper suggests that the idea of disguise or ritual, and phrases such as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” can be seen throughout all aspects of society all over the world. Consistent throughout is the idea that concealing part of one’s inner self is human nature.

Wisconsin Affiliations

No affiliations were found.

Wisconsin Art Organizations

No art organizations were found.

  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Instagram icon
  • Flickr icon
  • Youtube icon
  • E-News icon