Presented in partnership with SAIC’s Conversations on Art & Science Series
Newton Harrison, along with his late wife Helen Mayer Harrison, are among the leading pioneers of the eco art movement. They are often referred to simply as “the Harrisons” due to their profound work as a collaborative team. They worked for almost 40 years together with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists, initiating collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development. The Harrisons’ concept of art embraces a breathtaking range of disciplines; serving as historians, diplomats, ecologists, investigators, emissaries, and art activists. Their work involves proposing solutions and involves not only public discussion, but extensive mapping and documentation of these proposals in an art context.
Past projects have focused on watershed restoration, urban renewal, agriculture, and forestry issues among others. The Harrisons’ visionary projects often led to changes in governmental policy and practical implementations throughout the United States and Europe. By the early ‘90s the Harrisons formed the Harrison Studio and Associates. In 1993 its earliest manifestation was at the Bauhaus Dessau, a team that centered around Bauhaus personnel with Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, Vera Westergaard, and Gabriel Harrison, working collectively on the Mulde River watershed. Thereafter, the Harrison Studio formed and reformed many times. The most recent iteration is the Harrison Studio Britain and its offshoot the Harrison Studio Devon.
The Harrisons’ work process is singular and begins with the question, “How big is here?” Here may be a street corner as in the work California Wash or a subcontinent such as in the works Peninsula Europe I, Part II, Part III. The Harrison Studio only does work that is the outcome of an invitation to engage a particular place or situation. An agenda is created in discourse with the larger community, functioning simultaneously as a guest and coworker. They stay only as long as the invitation continues or until they deem that they have done all that is possible.
Keats, Jonathon. “Eco-Art Or Science? Helen And Newton Harrison Art Sculpting Earth Systems To Endure Climate Change,” Forbes
Genzlinger, Neil. “Helen Mayer Harrison, Leader in Eco-Art Movement, Dies at 90,” New York Times
Veltman, Chloe. “How Two Santa Cruz Artists Changed the Course of Environmental History,” KQED Arts