• Yuner Gao

Howard Harris: Discover Aesthetics Invisible to the Human Eye


Puffer - 36”x30” - Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris


My hometown is famous for Chinese gardens of a long history. From a very young age, I was fascinated by its labyrinthine design. The corridors inside were never direct. Following the meandering paths, you can always expect to see something different at the end of the paths. But the journey to the end is not boring -- the half-covered windows, the jagged flowers, and the high and low rockery, all offer different views with each step. In the art of static architecture, designers were trying their best to create a dynamic aesthetic.


Water Mellon - 36”x30” - Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris

Just recently, I found an artist who did a similar thing.He creates a kaleidoscope of visual movements as if the image could shift before your eyes. His name is Howard Harris. If you are interested in photography, his name is probably familiar to you.Harris gives his images a sculptural effect, layering the work using clear acrylic surfaces superimposed with a subtle grid. The image gains dimension and the viewing experience shifts depending on the angle. The process Harris uses was granted a United States Patent, affirming the uniqueness and inventiveness of his works.


Thinking Girl - 30”x36” – Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris


Harris described this particular stereoscopic technique more in detail: “The bottom image is arrived from a sublimation print. Then what I do is take the image on the bottom, (and) change its size somewhat. Because you have two eyes and your two eyes create something called a parallax what I do is exaggerate the effect of parallax in most people’s vision. I use negative and positive space to help with the movement and print another image or a similar image on the back on a piece of clear acrylic. Essentially, as one moves by the piece, the piece changes.”


How he got the idea is probably due to 35 years of experience in photography and many years of exploration of photographic expression.Howard Harris has spent years reflecting on the phenomenon of perception and then translating his inquiry into visual expression. He has said that his aim is to “combine technology and aesthetics in a way that expands the viewer’s experience of photographic art.”


Tuscany Landscape – 36”x30” - Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris


Harris's focus, however, has never been on technology, although he does rely on it to some extent. He prefers to classify it as Techspressionism—an artistic approach in which technology is utilized as a means to express emotional experience. Indeed, the emphasis is still about emotional experiences. As he said, “It’s the goal of the artist to add the intangible dimensions of personal expressions, emotion, movement and the opportunity for the image to interact with its ever-changing environment.”


Harris not only wants to capture the moment in terms of the visual, but also capture the emotion and the inspiration. “Focusing is not just an optical activity. It is also a mental one. ” said Harris.


Fall Leaves - 30”x36” – Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris

In fact, it is not only his techniques that are similar to the design of eastern gardens. In the content of his pictures, he was also deeply influenced by Eastern philosophy. Take the Battle Cloth as an example, It is inspired by a picture in a Jewish museum in Spain, which is a picture of a war banner of an ancient tribe. While as the saying goes, "Different people have different opinions." I see a Buddha in this picture, and a surgeon sees a human spine. This is what Harris refers to as "the differences between Eastern and Western thought”.


Battle Cloth – 30”x36” – Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris


To some extent, Harris argues that Eastern philosophy is better at explaining emotions than Western thinking, because the Western culture is full of specific definitions, but Eastern culture has “very few absolutes”. With the respect for eastern culture, Harris created the Ayer’s Rock at sunset. The rock in the picture, which in real life is reddish, is highly respected by the local people. People see it the avatar of heaven, which appears in the fiery red atmosphere more evident. “I did not climb the rock because I respect the spirit of the rock itself,” Harris said.


Ayers Rock - 36”x30” - Sublimation print on aluminum with an acrylic overlay © Howard Harris


Another attraction for Harris in Australia is the Aboriginal culture. “I was fascinated by the aboriginal pictures. I tried to create an aboriginal sort of work,” he said. And that is what inspired the Watermelon.Without much interest in strictly representational art, the Aborigines repeat the patterns and shapes in their natural world. Borrowing from their technique, the entire picture of the watermelon is made of little squares and circles connected in series, which look like many water droplets at a distance.Additionally, the Thinking Girl is also a product of the imitation of the Aboriginal picture style. Harris thought his imitation was not good enough, but to some extent, it is successful. Some people can see a maiden's face at a glance, while others can't at all.


But Harris doesn't get praise for every picture. The Fall Leaves, for example, was severely criticized.The image is in memory of the ivy vines near his home. Some patrons can't see his familiar style in this picture, can't get used to it, so they reject it. However, when I saw it, I could feel the artist's complicated feelings from the bright colors and tangled shapes.


Albers Unleashed - 36”x30” - Sublimation print on aluminum © Howard Harris


Harris isn't fazed by the criticism — he's still trying different styles.Influenced by Josef Albers’ iconic color square pictures, the Albers Unleashed, made entirely of circles, was born, in a way that echoes Albers' picture. As for the Tuscany Landscape, it pays tribute to Monet. Similarly, the Puffer also relates to plants, dandelions. "Puffer" was actually the name given by Harris’s three-year-old grandson, which was his first thought about the picture.


If you think about Harris's pictures, you will find that they are often very colorful, and that's what Harris intends to do. He is trying to explore colors that the human eye could not see, to expand the realm of aesthetics. And those bright saturated colors often seem to glow in the picture, or even like the flames of different colors, expressing the passion and the emotional ambiguity of the author. That is what Howard Harris, who grew up in the West but is steeped in Eastern philosophy, is trying to convey. As a one-of-a-kind attempt, I admire his genius and effort for striking a balance between industrial trends and true aesthetics. As for you, maybe you could try to appreciate the different aesthetics.