What he does: Dennis Lee Harper makes good use of his lively sense of humor and personality when creating his art. "It comes out in most of my work...it's a little quirky but people seem to respond to it," Harper says, laughing. The video artist and sculptor likes to call himself "bi-metro" since he spends time sculpting in Houston and making videos in Austin. "Most of my sculptures are large or scaled-up objects made with ephemeral materials like paper and foam board," he says. "My videos are mostly narrative...and like my sculptures, they're usually humorous and maybe entertaining, but with a subtext that explores some aspect of our culture."
Why he likes it: When in Houston, Harper does his sculpting at Box 13 Artspace, a gallery on the east side of town. "Box 13 is where I build most of my large sculptures. The best thing about Box 13--besides being an organization of artists--is that we focus on our gallery space and on exhibiting really excellent cutting-edge artists."
What inspires him: Harper grew up in Los Angeles and attributes the influence of his material to being raised in the entertainment capital of America. "The subjects that I explore in my sculptures are mostly about objects that are icons of American popular culture...I'm especially interested in the objects that have taken on a life and meaning of their own." For instance, his Paper Motorcycle sculpture-made entirely of wood, paper, and foamboard-demonstrates the symbolism of certain modes of American-made transportation. "It's a scaled-up replica of a classic American motorcycle, and there's a subculture and a kind of mythology that's built up around these bikes, so that it has become a symbol and not just some transportation vehicle."
What's next: Harper will be spending the next few months preparing for a fall exhibition at The Joanna in Houston. "The Joanna openings are fun and a lot of people show up. They encourage artists to do something different or wild."
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The wildest thing about Harper's work, however, is his attention to detail.
"The amount of craft I put into my work is crazy. Often times my work looks entertaining and goofy on the surface-maybe that's all it ever is to most people-but I'd like to think it has some sort of undercurrent that you can get into if you think about it."
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