Juror Profile: John Harkins
Updated: Mar 3, 2023
John Harkins, the juror for the upcoming juried show at the Anderson Arts Center, is looking forward to the task. “I always try to go into it with no preconceptions or agenda and see what the work has to say,” he said. “I’m excited to see what artists are doing in the Southeast in 2023.”
He is curious about the sense of place that emerges from artwork, how bodies or figures are used, images related to COVID, and depictions of mental and physical health and of grief and loss. He is also excited by the inventive use of materials, unconventional material choices, and surprising techniques or processes.
And he is drawn to work that invites some kind of connection. “It’s inspiring to see work that may really resonate and that may have a lot of similarity to my own,” he said. “I also want to experience work that is so outside of my wheelhouse in the technique or subject matter or materials. When I go home [after jurying], all of that work lives with me for a while. A month or so later when I’m doing something, I will notice a direct line to a painting I saw.”
Harkins has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Fine Arts from Wayne State University. He is a Professor of Foundation Studies at Savannah College of Art and Design.
The focus of his own artwork is collage, which he finds an apt metaphor for how he has been trying to forge a unified whole in his life. One strand of his work is nonobjective abstractions. They are untitled and usually 16 x 20 inches. Each one contains up to 50 layers of materials that might include discarded drawings, fabric, paint, markers, transfers, and hand-sewn soft sculpture figures. These items are added and then partially removed by sanding or paint thinner or wiping. “With every layer, I respond to what’s there,” he said.
The other strand is more personal. “I am a gay man who grew up Catholic and came of age during the height of the AIDS crisis,” he said. “Back then, being gay was not talked about, and I needed to find a way to talk about that.” These collages meld images from Catholic symbolism with hypermasculine or demonic figures of men.
Now that he’s reached middle age, Harkins finds himself ready to tackle this topic in a new way, as someone who has found resolution. He has recently begun to weave with paper.
For more information about Harkins, visit Instagram.com/jmh806/.
Drop-off for the juried show is March 9-11 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the upstairs gallery at the Anderson Arts Center. For more information, visit https://andersonarts.org/exhibitions/annual-juried-show/.