Evan B. Harris – Featured Artist
2012/09/19 § Leave a Comment
Vision in Black Water: Holly Hinkle Interview With Portland Artist Evan B. Harris
In the flesh, Evan B. Harris is a self-portrait of the old world maritime aesthetic that has become signature in his paintings and murals. As he settles into the darkened, quiet corridor of the shop where I first met him and takes a seat in a solid, antique chair across from me, I feel a spirit-tempest enter the room, and imagine the faint sounds of shipboards creaking and mermaids singing. The artist’s beige knit cap is pulled askew and his chest piece crests along the open neck of a striped boater shirt. He’s wearing cowboy boots. “My style comes from my granddad,” says Harris, “He was a cowboy-sailor.”
Every artist comes from somewhere, and from that somewhere a story unfolds. Harris’s own narrative originates off the grid, where, in the backwoods of small towns across Southern Oregon, he journeyed with his mother through the wonders, loneliness, and hardships of a keyless life. Harris picked up drawing early on and, like any natural born artist, filled his school notebooks with sketches. Encouraged by his teachers and fellow students, he continued to draw and hone his skills throughout his youth. When I ask Harris about the crux of his work, his answer is simple.“I paint my family—” Mother, Father, and Grandfather are recurring Muses—often painted into the “mythology that circles in my head” says Harris.
Looking at an Evan B. Harris painting, it’s apparent that the artist is a master at translating the delicate braid of real life and a folkloric menagerie of symbolisms onto the canvas. One feels a natural gravitation towards the narrative textures, subdued color palette, and invitation to interpret the work through a full spectrum of emotion; above all, the artist’s gift of metaphor holds the viewer’s gaze until they realize they are looking, not at a painting, but in to one. In a world where wolves and moths are protectors that “elevate everything out of darkness,” roots are like arteries carrying blood into the center of things, foxes and horses are cut-in-half vessels for the dead and the living, and black water is a universal evil, the desire to pause and take it all in is not surprising.
Toward the end of our conversation, Harris throws up his hands and says, “Holly, I want the world to be overrun with artists.” I have to agree. The room is darkened, and my imagination is set on fire. I smell wood smoke and saltwater, a pelican flies overhead, and the floor rocks and creaks like an old ship at sea. This is the story of an artist spoken, painted, fully unfolded.
On the themes of Milk, Other Lovers, Gauntlet, and How We Fall Out of Love
Evan B. Harris grew up in Medford and Newburg, Oregon, and lived in Hawaii and Seattle before settling in Portland to become a working artist. This winter he will be exhibiting new work in New Orleans, New York, and at Art Basel in Miami Beach, Flordia.