Ian Harkey's demeanor is reminiscent of someone that was born old. Beneath his vintage Saints hat, he encounters time quietly, observant, thumbs tucked in jeans. He's been away, far away, in New York City, and now he's come back home. There's a struggle there, it seems, like Mississippi is for many of the great artists that came before him. His artwork addresses that struggle through it's physicality. When perusing Harkey's portfolio, the overwhelming majority of his subjects are bodies. These bodies are reflected and refined through a tedious process of wood block carving and screen printing, with a toolkit that includes exacto knives and Japanese gouge tools.
Much of Harkey's work features the human body folded or extended, but the look is almost always still, and the pieces capture snapshots, not whole lives. In this way the content is a product of form and the laborious process of sculpting, which old-soul Harkey praises as "classic." The centeredness renders the bodies into subjects, almost detached, like a scientific study. Harkey dissects with his gouge tools, edging a scratched-over look onto human faces and cicada carcasses. These incisions act as a filter between the viewer and the moment at hand, adding time and begging the viewer to work through an untraceable history. Time cuts through the stillness of the motionless forms, and it's this passing of time that makes the intensity of eye contact bearable. Reading the details of one of Harkey's prints is a journey--a dissection of emotion and mortality, which will most undoubtedly be more of a personal journey for the viewer than one into the history of his subjects.
Sitting down with Ian Harkey:
One road to drive down forever: Natchez Trace Parkway - I still haven't done the full Nashville to Natchez ride but that's happening someday soon. It's the best.
If you could have one super power... I thought about this a lot, and I keep coming back to flying just because it would be awesome. Plus you could zip around to wherever you wanted to be so easily, but all the while that I'm convincing myself that flying is the way to go, stretchy limbs keeps popping into my head. I think flip a coin and i'd be pretty happy with either.
A metaphor for how you feel on Monday morning: Reset. Reload. Somethin' like that. It's not always a good feeling but sometimes it works out for me.
Your favorite art project to teach: I teach what I know and that would be printmaking. Such an old and classic artform, but so much can be done with it here and now. It's sculptural, it's movement, it's the most satisfying thing I've ever done.
Beer or wine? Beers
Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I think it would have to be Sarah Lawrence, the college I went to. It was such an interesting place where a ton of different minds all came smashing together. I was kind of always "the artist" in high school in Jackson - people would come to me to draw t-shirts or laud me over whatever I was working on, and I think it wasn't great for my craft. I wasn't ever really challenged, and then I went to school, and was almost totally overwhelmed by the amount of creativity running through that place. Because of the curriculum, I was able to study almost any subject, and filter that through into my art. It was also a tough place to go to school - small classes meant more one-on-one time with teachers, and they expect and demand a lot from you, and they know if you're slacking off. So there was never really an academic moment where I could relax, but because of that I was always having to pay attention and keep my eyes and ears open. I learned so much that I never thought I would ever be involved in.
If you were to anamorph… Can I say Dinosaur? Or we can just go with Lizard.
What triggers your “aha” moment? I can't say that it's one thing in particular. It could be something that I'm reading, or something I see. I know this is vague, but it's usually people-related. I dunno, honestly. Sometimes you just know, and the other times you have to keep working and figuring it out until a new moment comes along.
Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... See what time it is and gauge if I can go back to sleep again for a lil bit.
Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? I'd have to say my Dad. He's a surgeon, but he didn't decide when he was younger that that's what he was going to do. It took a lot of hard work and experience for him to find that field, but he always seemed open to trying whatever came across and made sense. And now he's very successful, and he has a really level head about almost everything. I think I would just be able to emulate his work ethic and his passion for his field.
What are some of the things happening in Jackson that excite you? I'm not going to pinpoint any one institution or goings on, but I can say that there seems to be a larger number of good people who have lived here before, or have come for school or jobs or what have you, and they are deciding to stay and be a part of the lifestyle here. As someone who has been gone for a while and now I'm back, you can definitely feel that it's exciting.
For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? It's a great project to help to local arts community grow. You bring the art, the art brings the people, and the moneys helps the artists and this great organization to keep on keepin' on.
If you could Go to Space, you would totally do it.