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Perceiving the ‘dimensional photography’ of Howard Harris

Howard Harris’ work in the medium of “dimensional photography”—a term coined by his first gallery and a writer for the American Art Collector Magazine—“stuck,” the artist recalls, “because no one could think of a better way to categorize something they had never seen before.”

The philosophical theories that drive his art, notes Harris, “come from Quantum Physics, Chaos Theory, Visual Perception, and years of art schooling… Visual reality is an ever-shifting, highly individualized experience. In any given moment, what we see reflects both our inner state and a synthesis of outer qualities—light, color, movement, space.”

The perception of visual reality alters according to its experience in the digital or brick-and-mortar realm. What impactful feedback have you received from those who’ve seen your work in each of these realms?

Viewers have a different experience viewing digitally vs. brick-and-mortar viewing. Viewing my work in a brick-and-mortar realm gives one a better understanding of the intangible that two-dimensional work (digitally viewed on a screen) rarely evokes. The continuing challenge is creating an image that is aesthetically pleasing/interesting/shocking or different enough to be noticed, and works in the digital world or on the printed page. Then it is equally challenging to get the opportunity to have that viewer/audience/gallery guardians see the work in the 3D, brick-and-mortar view—because when one sees the work in person, their reaction is often completely different.

The comments, “It moves with me. The image is so dimensional. It’s so different (in a good way) than I thought. It really is as bright as it looked on my screen” are just a sampling of the reactions. The difference is simply, or not so simply, explained by our experience. We all live in a three-dimensional world. We use our eyes to process an image through stereoscopic vision that transmits the image to our brain. What most of us don’t realize is that stereoscopic vision relies on the physical properties of parallax to decode what we are seeing. Then when you add lighting, emotions, and environment, it is only then when one has the full experience of the image.

I apologize for the somewhat comic book technical explanation, but it is necessary to know why viewing my two-dimensional images gives one a completely different experience. One is generally devoid of the effects of parallax, lighting, emotions of the moment, and the complexities of environment. That is why the foundation of my art must stand on its 2D merits. Then adding dimensionality hopefully creates an image that triggers a deeper visual/emotional response.

How have the social distancing realities of COVID-19 impacted your output, current means of access to the art, and daily creative/personal existence?

COVID-19 impacted my artistic output in a good way. I am producing much more than I would have before being confined to my home studio. Some have asked if COVID has made me lonely. My response is, the only loneliness I feel is when I have a blank slate to work with. Given one’s ability to create anything feels like a solitary/lonely adventure. The way I counteract that feeling is trusting in the creative process that demands discipline of thought and starting by beginning. Often, starting is the loneliest/hardest activity one has in life.

The pandemic has limited my access to viewing art firsthand. I have had to cancel trips to Greece, Turkey, Ireland, and Italy. I studied Art History for six years in school, viewed numerous of art books, saw tons of art online, and all that was good—but nothing compares to seeing the painting, sculpture, photograph, etc. in person.

Seeing art, and I would say seeing any art in person, gives one a completely different and deeper understanding of the art and artist. Canceling my shows this summer also deprives me of viewers’ reactions and critique.

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