Published on October 18, 2018
“I want to take people to someplace other than where they are. I want my work to strike that tuning fork that lives within each of us. To get their attention and let them see themselves. That they are not alone. We all share a universality.”
Artist Paul Harmon welcomed us into his cozy log cabin studio in Brentwood, Tennessee, where paintings and sculptures brightly layer the walls from floor to ceiling. In his 70’s, Harmon’s curiosity and delight in the creative journey is as strong as ever. He exudes the wisdom and humor that comes from a life well lived.
Harmon has flourished through his life-long devotion to the muses. He got hooked on art as a toddler playing on the floor of his grandmother’s studio (she was the founder of the Nashville Artist Guild.) He lived for many years in Paris, France, and his work reflects the heritage of French Fauvism. Like Harmon himself, his creations are bright, playful, mystical, and romantic.
What is your personal connection to Alive Hospice?
A number of my friends have been cared for by Alive Hospice with great care, concern, and professionalism, and a collector was kind enough to donate several of my paintings to Alive Hospice. This is most meaningful to me.
Death is always with us, and artists have a closer affinity to the subject than perhaps many in other walks of life. Even in artworks that celebrate life, there is the concept of death as the other side of the coin.
How has your work helped you deal with losses in life?
Much of my work has to do with nostalgia. Great losses over time become “nostalgia,” that bittersweet longing for what was once so dear. A bit of the ashes of several of my best friends are blended with the oil paint in several of my paintings. Some may feel this macabre but I feel just the opposite. They live. Our atoms never die. As Carl Sagan memorably said, “We are made of star-stuff.”
What does leaving a legacy mean to you?
Everything. Early man carved Venus figures and painted on the walls of caves to prove he existed. I think the big motivation to becoming an artist has to do with, consciously or not, trying to leave evidence of our time here.
How has your work and your relationship to it changed in this phase of your life?
I am approaching my 80th year. In my work today, I clearly see the work of my beginnings. In my oldest works (from the 1960’s and 70’s), I see the future work, just like we all can see the child we once were. I don’t think of my work as changing as much as evolving. A process of osmosis. The work adds and subtracts layers as time passes and environments spur adjustments.
How does creativity work?
The big fear of serious painters is that we’ll wake up one day, and it’s gone because there’s something kind of spiritual in there. It’s beyond you. I do not tease the gods. If I get hubristic, I step back and say, “I know I’m getting help with this.” It seems familiar, it seems right, but it happens in spite of me. There’s another place beyond the mechanics of doing it. You move outside of yourself.
Do you have any advice for cultivating creativity?
I paint at night when the rest of the world does not exist. You have to create space outside of the distractions of daily life for this other side of the brain.
Look at things with new eyes. Keep looking at things. For a number of my early years, I had little feeling for sculpture. I knew that it had value but I was unable to find, within myself, the key to its richness as an art medium. Along the way, I discovered the sculpture of Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti. I now immensely enjoy the medium. But I still haven’t made much progress on either Opera or Rap!
For more on Paul Harmon, visit paulharmon.com
Order Your Limited-Edition Paul Harmon Print Today
To support the work of Alive, artist Paul Harmon has graciously donated 10 different images, signed and printed in strictly limited giclée editions of only 24 each.
These prints are available exclusively from Alive, and 100 percent of the proceeds from these prints will support Alive’s work in the community. Each print is individually numbered, titled, and signed in pencil by the artist.
Note: Often, even in “Limited Edition Prints,” the editions can run into the hundreds. These prints are truly limited and rare as only 24 of each image are in the edition, numbered 1/24 to 24/24. Three of each were reserved for the artist as proofs. Printing files and any printing overages were destroyed.
Process Description: All of these images were originally painted by Paul Harmon in a variety of sizes and media including oil, acrylic, and watercolor.
Images were then captured digitally, in high resolution, reduced in dimension, and printed on a professional graphics printer to Library of Congress archival standards. The result is a giclée print.
Unframed prints are 11×14 printed on 110# Mohawk Warm White cover. Image size varies with the subject matter surrounded by a generous margin.