Visual Arts

Ann Harithas Makes Art Out of Her Memory Loss and Recovery

Ann Harithas: Memory is the first exhibition of this artist after recovering from what may have been a stroke last year, where her memory, and even ability to recognize old friends, was dramatically impaired. Harithas began reviewing old photographs, working with them, and her faculties improved, and are now completely restored to normal. The exhibition is thus both a viewing of her new, contemporary work and also a visual case history of a personal triumph,

Images of the brain loom large in some of these works, but not all. Harithas works with digital image montages often printed upon canvas, and has sometimes included Asian images in her work. She does so here, with one of her works "Memory Lane", where two Asiatic men stare with interest and observation at an off-canvas object or event, while a female child over the head of one looks at a person, or the camera. Is this a separate image, or is it the thought of the Asian?

The Asian could easily be double-tasking. Scientists have learned that we have two separate brains, linked, which switch back and forth so rapidly it seems like one. But where damage has been done to the cerebral cortex which links them, some patients are able to read two different books simultaneously, one for each brain - it's an amazing world we have the privilege of inhabiting.

Harithas has a well-developed sense of humor, and I enjoyed a smaller piece titled "High School Prom", which I mentally subtitled "A Father's Nightmare". We have a photograph of a fresh-faced girl, innocent but expectant. What at first may seem a beret, however, turns out on closer inspection to be a coiled rattlesnake. There are two ravenous sharks circling below her. There is a medicine man (African?) lower left, but can he protect her? Does he want to? A set of lips lower right and a thumbnail, both embossed heavily with cosmetic adornment, suggest that sophistication lies in wait for the girl, whether her dad wants it or not.

A larger work, "Dreams I Remember" gives the impression of sepia tone, but is far more complex. A young girl, a child, is seated on a stool, reading by a window, content, at peace, though there is no vista through the window, just a pink wall. The work is covered almost entirely with what might be a transparent filmy fabric, except that it is instead an impression of brainwaves, and sixteen globes circle her - these are brain scans. Her face and head remain uncovered by the film, possibly because of the depth and intensity of her concentration.

There is an emotional power here that is involving, and intriguing. One may not always deduce all the threads of the fertile imagination of Harithas, but she here shows us the power of literature, and the learning process that brings us to maturity, and we hope that the child retains some of her innocence as that happens, and the world converges upon her.

"Brain Game" is a large triple-image work (30 x 58") of a young girl seated, but with subtle variations in each image. On the right, she appears to be seated on a ceramic seat, but in the middle and left the seat turns out to be an open container. A picture of a brain serves on the right as her skirt, while it serves as her head in the middle, and perhaps as a chandelier on the left. The contrast between the brain, the heavily patterned ceramic container, and a stark brick wall, adds a rich choice of textures.

There is also an older work, done in 2012, before the brain damage, which stands out because of its size, 48 x 58", but also because of its power. Titled "Feline Shrine", there is a huge cat, the edge of a pagoda's roof, some grass, and a giant sculpture statue without distinctive features. It draws one in because of its mystery, its strength, and the juxtaposition of ancient worship with a contemporary pet, a cat, which also was once an object of adoration.

Ann Harithas: Memory continues through May 31, at the d.m. Allison gallery, 2709 Colquitt, 11 to 5 Wednesday through Saturday, 832-607-4378,