“How little is enough?” Harlow’s art showcased at Mazmanian Gallery

[Nick Cunningham]

Artist and alumna Lynne Harlow brightened the Mazmanian Gallery with a fluorescent installation and inspirational discussion on Nov. 15.

Harlow graduated from FSU in 1992 and went on to receive her M.F.A from Hunter College, New York. While at Framingham State, Harlow studied both art history and studio art with a focus in printmaking.

Harlow is a former student of current FSU Professor John Anderson and reflected on a trip their sculpture class took to the Museum of Fine Arts when she was undergraduate.

“We ended up in front of a large Donald Judd box sculpture. I knew nothing about minimalism. I knew nothing about Judd, but the work was so confounding that I stood there and I thought, ‘This is something.’ I couldn’t articulate why, but it was a moment with this piece,” recalled Harlow.

She emphasized the importance this experience, along with FSU art trips to New York, had on her development as an artist.

Harlow wasn’t able to find a job as a lithographer immediately after school, but instead landed a job at the Boston Ballet. Previously unfamiliar with contemporary dance, Harlow discovered she had a strong interest in it.

She said, “That, in fact, has become a really important part of my work because when it comes to arrangements like this where I’m thinking about not only what I’m putting in the space, but how you’re going to move through the space, I think about it to some degree in terms of choreography. … I don’t think I could have done that the same way if dance hadn’t come into my life when it did.”

Harlow also found inspiration from 1960s minimalist sculptor Eva Hesse. After seeing a latex-covered fabric piece by Hesse, Harlow became interested in the idea of printing on fabric. This encounter re-sparked Harlow’s desire to create and persuaded her to pursue a graduate degree.

She said, “I went in a pretty straight printmaker and I came out of that program an installation artist … with a much more reductive language than when I started.”

Harlow primarily used sheer fabrics while she was at Hunter College, which enabled her to deal directly with the light passing through them, as well as material, space and color. These elements and experiences set the baseline for her current-day work.

She created her installation, “Sources,” specifically for the MazGal exhibit. Highly saturated vinyl curtain and adhesive vinyl were used to create her interactive piece.

The vinyl curtain is a vibrant shade of pink reflecting its glow onto the white walls of the gallery. Harlow spoke about her color choice, saying, “The way I think about color a lot is not just what we do optically with color, but what kind of body-read we get from color as well.”

The bright yellow adhesive vinyl cohesively fuses with the pink curtain, and runs across the floor and up the far wall in a direct line. The vinyl is placed slightly off center, ironically generating a feeling of balance due to the dimensions of the gallery. 

Harlow also incorporated a shelf of books, a list of songs and a video display as part of the exhibit. Her purpose for including these specific “sources” is to provide insight into her daily thinking process.

Harlow’s exhibit aims to acknowledge the subconscious and oftentimes neglected influences that are crucial to her work.

Harlow spoke about art’s general importance, saying, “The idea is that we do want to move things forward. This is the whole reason that we don’t just say, ‘Oh, well, art has already been made! Done!’ You know in my mind the perfect rock n’ roll song has been written. So do we not need another one? No, I want another one … and it’s the same with art.

“I would encourage all of you to just keep in mind when you feel like, ‘Oh, it’s already been done.’ It hasn’t been done in your moment, and so you need to do it in your moment,” said Harlow.