Charley Harper-Birds Birches
As I am getting settled into the new house and getting all of our boxes unpacked, I keep looking around at all of my artwork and framed pictures I am so eager to hang. That is usually one of the last things I do when I move into a house. I want to make sure all of the main furnishings are in place, then I lean each piece of art on the wall where I think I might hang it. Then I live with it for a week or two while I mull it over, moving it around to other areas to see how I feel. Those pesky nail holes are so annoying when you commit too early. ;)
In my new house I have some fantastic, and expansive wall space. Perfect for a few gallery walls!! Yay! To bolster my art collection I have been searching out some new treasures to add. I was recently introduced to a fantastic Modernist artist, Charley Harper. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations.
He called his style “minimal realism”, and I am so enamored with the geometric patterns and colors he used to create his works-
“When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of the painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”
He contrasted his nature-oriented artwork with the realism of John James Audubon, drawing influence from Cubism, Minimalism, Einsteinian physics and countless other developments in Modern art and science. His style distilled and simplified complex organisms and natural subjects, yet they are often arranged in a complex fashion. The results are bold, colorful, and often whimsical.
What do you guys think? Should I add a few to my collection? (BT dubs, the answer is yes…)
The mockingbird patrols his perimeter with the eye of an eagle, the ferocity of the falcon, and the suddenness of the supersonic jet. Cat-a-tat-tat! From twelve o’clock high, he screams out of the sky to strafe his catanapping enemy with bad bird words, pulling up just in time to escape catastrophe while tantalizing the tormented tabby. Will air power win the Cat-Bird War? Don’t bet on it, unless you find your feline digging a foxhole.
Charley Harper-Bark Eyes
The night has a thousand eyes – and you can count them all in an aspen grove. In fact, it’s hard to avoid eye contact in this scene. Some glow in the dark, others grow in the bark. Many don’t even show in the dark, but a pro in the dark – like an owl on the prowl with his stomach bigger than his eyes – can pinpoint the goodies below in the dark. How many eyes can you find in this picture? 93? Did you say 93? Wait – the artist says he put in 83. One of you is barking up the wrong three.
Charley Harper-Bear In The Birches
Alone in a birch grove in an early, unexpected snow – a serendipitous moment you’ll always treasure. But for the black bear, it’s just another venue for bedtime snacks; check that rotting log for one more succulent grub. No canoeist could peddle past this picture postcard from the North Woods, his metal vessel heavy-laden with wilderness survival gear, without longing for Hiawatha’s legendary, lightweight, birch bark craft, floating like “a yellow leaf in Autumn.
Charley Harper-Dam Diligent
The beaver’s work ethic is a part of our national heritage. He’s that character we all have a gnawing feeling we ought to keep as busy as. And indeed some of us have kept so busy that we’ve taken away his job of impeding and impounding the free-flowing waters of America. But when it comes to cost-benefit ratios and environmental impact statements, he’s better than the Corps of Engineers by a damsite. So how can you best preserve a pristine stream? Leave it to beavers.
Charley Harper-Limp On A Limb
Momatee, first published in January 1972 for the Ford Motor Company’s lifestyle magazine Ford Times, is an endearing depiction of a first lesson for a baby manatee: Learn to breathe.
Charley Harper-October Edibles
Charley Harper-Mystery of the Missing Migrant
For centuries, the neo-tropical migrants in this picture have shuttled between winter homes in the tropical rainforest and nesting sites in our woodlands. Now their populations are plummeting. Why? Habitat destruction Down There? Up Here? Is your favorite songster in this flock? Each April, I listen anxiously to the dawn chorus for the return of my favorite, that world-class flutist, the wood thrush. Are silent springs forthcoming? Remember the canary in the coal mine?
Charley Harper-Serengeti Spaghetti
If you experience technical difficulties when you look at this herd of zebras on Africa’s Serengeti Plain, please bear with us – the trouble is not in your set. It’s a tropical optical illusion, an equatorial pictorial puzzle of equivocal equinal elements, a stripey smorgasbord of scrambled silhouettes, an amorphous ambulatory aggregation of undulating ungulates: op art on the hoof. How many hooves in the herd? You really want to know? Well, first you have to count the zebras.
Charley Harper-Shadow Dancers
Ever wish you could walk on water? You know who can? A Water Strider, that’s who. A Water Strider can walk around on the creek all day without getting its feet wet. Its shadow sinks like a stone and tags along on the bottom, but who minds a wet shadow? If you had widespread, waxy feet that didn’t break the surface tension, you could walk on water, too. And you know what you’d be called if you did? A Water Strider, that’s what.
Charley Harper-Skipping School
A school of minnows clears the classroom as a menacing monster swirls up from the depths. It’s the largemouth bass, out to grab a bite. The subject for today and everyday: Pond Life and How to Prolong It When It’s Yours. They learn fast, but many a minnow flunks the final. Multiple choice question: Who will live the longest? (a) Little fish in a big pond; (b) Little fish in a little pond; (c) Big fish in a big pond; (d) Big fish in a little pond? Answer: snapping turtle.
Charley Harper-The Name Is Puffin
If you’re like me, you never forget a face but can’t recall the name, so you invent elaborate reminders. Take this funny looking bird with the false nose, the pasted-on eyebrows and the bright cheek smears – Emmett Kelly with feathers. I have to say to myself: proceeding precipitously, approaching the populous puffinry with ponderous proboscis packed with piscatorial pabulum for the plumping, precocious pufflings, he rhymes with muffin. I’ll never forget what’s-his-name.
Charley Harper-Upside Downside