The works in Jen P. Harris’ Ghost Prairie were conceived in response to the Iowa landscape, by most measures the most radically altered place in North America. Imagery in the paintings reference the lost Iowa tallgrass prairie, which gave way to the current landscape of monoculture crops. The artist says she wanted to “evoke an experience of the simultaneous presence and absence of an entire dimension of the landscape. I was thinking about ghosts and about how a ghost is a presence that reveals something about our minds and our relationship to history.”
For the last three years, Harris has worked with matrices of modular ink paintings mounted on woodblocks. Not confined to the rectangular canvas, this arrangement of diamond shapes gives the works expansive physical presence and has been described by the artist as “painting installation.” The woodblocks function not only as support for the paintings but also create a geometric structure that adds to a trompe l’oeil effect in which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish pictorial illusion from actual dimensional space.
Harris recently moved to Iowa City after 10 years in New York. She received a BA in Studio Art from Yale University (1999) and an MFA from Queens College of the City University of New York (2008). Her work has been exhibited nationally at venues including Daniel Cooney Fine Art (NYC); John Davis Gallery (Hudson, NY); Artplace (Los Angeles); Baltimore Museum of Art; and Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (Wilmington). She is the recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Residency Fellowship (2015), New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowship (2012), and Puffin Foundation Grant (2011), among others.