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Conley Harris and Art Faculty Featured at UNH Museum of Art

August 20, 2008

Two new exhibitions showcasing recent drawings, paintings, clay works, and sculptures by four faculty members from the department of art and art history as well as the paintings of Boston-based artist Conley Harris, will be on view at the Museum of Art (formerly the Art Gallery), from Sept. 6 through Oct. 22.

The exhibitions, “Art Faculty Review: Benjamin Cariens, Brian Chu, Craig Hood, and Maryse Searls McConnell,” and “Conley Harris: Lyrical Tableaux,” will open with a public preview reception on Friday, Sept.5, from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free.

“Art Faculty Review: Benjamin Cariens, Brian Chu, Craig Hood, and Maryse Searls McConnell,” highlights new works created by studio art faculty members who have recently returned from sabbatical or fellowship appointments.

Cariens has served as an assistant professor of sculpture and drawing since 2002. He is a graduate of The College of William and Mary (B.A., 1991), Boston University, School for the Arts (M.F.A., 1993), and Harvard University Divinity School (Master of Theological Studies, 1999). His sculptures reflect his interest in the function of artifice in the expression of religious faith.

An associate professor of drawing and painting, Chu is a graduate of Queens College (B.F.A., 1971; M.F.A., 1973). His paintings focus on differences found in color, surface, light, and space. As a result of his exploring these differences, his images become understated references, rather than realistic representation of his subjects.

Hood is a graduate of Boston University (B.A., 1975), Pennsylvania State University (B.A., 1979), and Indiana University (M.F.A., 1981). A professor of painting and drawing at UNH since 1981, Hood’s work examines the role of the human figure as a narrative image within a fragmented landscape.

McConnell, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art (B.F.A., 1971) and Alfred University (M.F.A., 1973), has served as an associate professor of art at UNH since 1973. Her works showcase the dichotomy of the creative process she employs—in her work in clay, she intuitively builds complex, non-representational studies and reliefs, while in her abstract drawings, she develops dream-like content and symbolism from man-made and natural images.

“Conley Harris: Lyrical Tableaux” presents more than 25 vibrant paintings showcasing the Boston-based artist’s interest in Persian and Indian miniatures. While paying homage to 17th-century Indian artists who kept unfinished drawings as reference for new works, Harris makes a significant break with this tradition when he layers and repeats drawings into a finished painting.

Theatrical sensibility provides Harris’s works with an intensity and power that transcend time and place. Using the lively color and dramatic staging of Hindu court narrative as a springboard, he gives voice to his own passion for a lush, imagined landscape. By incorporating the conventional poses and gestures of Hindu deities and dancers into this exploration of landscape, the formal gardens of the distant past are animated—bringing them into the present for our consideration.

Beginning his career as chief scene painter for the Santa Fe Opera Company during the 1970s, Harris is a former faculty member of the department of art and art history at UNH. He is well-known for his lyrical landscapes of New England and the American West.

Upon traveling to the Japan and India, he began collecting antique Rajput, Pahari, and Mughal drawings used as preparatory studies for miniature paintings which he used as a source of inspiration. His drawings from the 17th- and 18-th century courts and kingdoms of the Indian sub-continent now serve as a source of inspiration for his paintings and drawings.

Writing about his work, Harris has stated: “In these fantastical landscapes, I have altered, enlarged, and restaged details from favorite miniatures. A playful energy gathers as figures spring into action—whether it be dancing late into the night, archers pursuing their daring ambitions, or horsemen exploring the rolling landscape. These figures are personal to me, drawn from the past and now part of an imagined world that I find compelling.”

“Conley Harris: Lyrical Tableaux” was organized and circulated by the Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, Mass. Following its showing at the Museum of Art, it will travel to the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery in Knoxville, TN (Nov. 21 to Dec.19).

Exhibitions and programs are open to the public free of charge.


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