charley harper

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  • 1. Charley Harper(4 August 192210 June 2007)Charley Harper Born in Frenchton, West Virginia in 1922, Harpers upbringing on his family farm influenced his work to his last days. He left his farm home to study art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and won the academys first Stephen H. Wilder TravelingScholarship. While at the Academy, and supposedly on the first day, Charley met fellow artist Edie Mckee, whom he would marryshortly after graduation in 1947.Charley and Edie spent their honeymoon traveling the country, mainly in the west and south, being able to do so because of theStephen H. Wilder Scholarship the Academy awarded to Charley for post-graduate travels. Charley Harper returned to the ArtAcademy of Cincinnati as a teacher and also worked for a commercial firm before working on his own. He and his wife worked out of their Roselawn and Finneytown homes, and later, with their only child Brett Harper, formed Harper Studios.During his career, Charley Harper illustrated numerous books, notably The Golden Book of Biology, magazines such as Ford Times, as well as many prints, posters, and other works. As his subjects are mainly natural, with birds prominently featured, Charley oftencreated works for many nature-based organizations, among them the National Park Service; Cincinnati Zoo; Cincinnati NatureCenter; Hamilton County (Ohio) Park District; and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. He also designed interpretive displays for Everglades National Park.There is a rare and delightful playfulness in Harpers artwork. There is also graphic genius. Harpersaid, "When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I dont see feathers, fur, scapulars, or tail covertsnone of that. I see excitingshapes, 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 painting: In a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist cancreate an ordered universe." Reared on a West Virginia farm, Harper developed an early appreciation and love of animals as well as design. He attended WestVirginia Wesleyan College and graduated from the Cincinnati Art Academy, where he also taught for many years. Gradually, Harperbegan to lose his interest in realism. "I felt shackled by the laws of perspective and shading and decided that the constant attempt to create the illusion of three dimensions on the two-dimensional plane of the picture was limiting to me as an artist. Realistic paintingpersuades the viewer that he is looking into space rather than at a flat surface. It denies the picture plane, which I affirm and use asan element of design. Wildlife art has been dominated by realism, but I have chosen to do it differently because I think flat, hard-edge, and simple." In his artwork, Harper imaginatively investigated the similarities between human and wild animal behaviors, but completely without anthropomorphism. "I learn as much as I can about the creatures that interest me, and they all do. I observe them and find out how they interact with each other and their environments and ask myself, What if?"