|The Orange Flame Vine of Florida., 35 x 48. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery|
|knot to left of man's shoulder; wood|
underlayer represents hair, man's body,
Harry's method is to draw his design (the cartoon, as it were) on the wood with mechanical pencil, which not only leaves graphite lines, but slightly incises them too. Then he paints "inside the lines" with house paint, producing the characteristic flat shapes with no nuance. Any unpainted area exposes the wood and sometimes shows those precisely mapped pencil markings. If we take the painted surface to be the simplest representation of "reality," then the frequent appearance of the laid-out plan—the fundamental artifice—reminds us how very close "reality" and illusion are in this work. There's little that separates the surface representation from the artist's plan, below. All that stands between is a little casually-applied paint.
|Watson Song Trio. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery.|
Paint adds color and substance, but it also allows Harry to investigate the negative space. In this detail from Watson Song Trio, he does his by implying erasure, leaving "ghost" areas (thinly painted layers) around the women's images. More usually, he simply leaves blanks, as in My Permanent Daydream, below. The places he has not painted have a variety of pictorial meanings that heighten the unsettling sense of "daydream." For instance, the trunks of the palmettos are left natural: they are, after all, wood. Hair is not painted. It contrasts with skin and, in this visual context, looks the color of sun-bleached brown hair. But the windows of the house? Are they represented as open because they aren't painted in? Or are they boarded up, as I find it almost impossible not to see them. What's left out in this scene is more telling than what's applied.
|My Permanent Daydream. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery.|
|West Dixie Highway, detail. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery.|
These details from Flame Vine of Florida show Harry's attention to letter forms. "The calligraphy" across the top is particularly painstaking because it wasn't made by smooth strokes of a pen, but by imitations in pencil. Harry would have had to outline these shapes and filled them in, just as he does his figures with paint. The difference is that these letter forms contain hundreds of tiny, carefully executed marks. The smaller detail shot of words at the bottom of the painting shows his combination of lettering and script. The script is, again, a pencil imitation of Roundhand script's combination of thin and thick elements. His lettering is like a typeface, with serifs and some distinction in the width of elements.
In his choices of materials and methods, Harry literally provides the structure that upholds, and the frame that sets off, the world he pictures. His vision, like the fabric of his work, depends on a contrast between the highly generalized and the minutely specified. His work, viewed from across the room, tells stories that involve an idyllic, palm-peppered Florida of tourist motels, turquoise swimming pools, and a good life for people who wear shorts and tend the lawns of their bungalows. Harry's show at the Lindsay Gallery highlights the public dream, as advertised, in vacationland. Yet there's the built-in, central irony that some people live their real lives in vacationland.
|Cares of Everyday. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery. NB: sign in window of house reads,|
|Waymark, 31 x 38. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery.|
The text in the upper left corner of Waymark reads, "Do not 'Shilly,' and do not 'Shally.' Here is your very own opportunity to dine and be received at Camelot. In the hot sandwich hemisphere! Passengers arriving would prefer meals at home, but home is far away." In smaller script, across the top of the southbound departures board, Harry has written, the droll observation that, "In the face of all that is impermanent we still find the time to go on vacations."
No one has a suitcase in this picture, despite the fact that only departures are listed. The text is ambiguous: We want to dine at home, but home is far away; still, it requires travel-a "vacation"-to achieve the Camelot of our desire. Are these people without baggage waiting for a bus? Or do they welcome the returning traveler, Harry, who enters the picture? Perhaps he is coming home to Camelot. Perhaps this sad Harry feels alienated by all the promise of home's enchantment; by the conflicting claims that home and Camelot and vacationland turn out to be the same place.
|West Dixie Highway, 23 x 27. Courtesy, the Lindsay Gallery|
Harry's many depictions of motels, of which Orange Flame Vine is but one, remind us of transience. But his composition of nearly every work places permanence into an aching relationship with transience, giving rise to the sense of loss and longing that pervade this world. In Supermarket, for instance, the very solid supermarket moves into the picture like the engine of an oncoming train and the man, who could very well be simply a small-town idler, could equally be waiting for a Coming of some sort. That the name of the market is cut off, leaving only "'far," adds to the sense cautious anticipation in a portentous setting.
|Supermarket, 24 x31. Courtesy of the Lindsay Gallery.|
Standing in the middle of the Lindsay Gallery, surrounded by Harry's work, it feels more natural to feel that Harry has created a tableau than a series of paintings. Everything around the viewer adds up to a town: There's the shoe store, the gas station, supermarket, motels, houses with yards and swimming pools. There are the bus station, the lazy streets; the youth on bicycles, with their old cars, or tenderly kissing in the grass under a palm tree. The viewer stands in the middle, as on a town square, and people look as they do at a distance, inspecific but recognizable and familiar.