Carolyn Harper is a textile artist living in the Philadelphia area. Her work has a strong social justice component to it as she creates images of people or groups who have been marginalized, discriminated against, or abused. Her current works depict specific Philadelphians; someone living in an area homeless shelter or on the streets. The works provide faces to those who are faceless, nameless and powerless, and bear witness to those who are suffering. The current works are hand sewn, large quilts, often with hand dyed fabric. They provide very large, graphic images that call attention to those forgotten by society. They are visible markers that shout out: 'Look at me! See me!' Harper's endeavor is to seek expressive moments fortuitously snatched; and to record the state of this community and inspire change by bearing witness. Her work contains these two intertwined threads - one poetic, one political - of portraits made in the public realm.
Harper's practice is not only about documenting - it is also about making connections with people, and she has formed deep personal relationships with her subjects. Her hope is that the work will encourage others to do the same. Her experience in working with portraiture and the homeless is that the portraits serve to empower those people depicted. They are able to see themselves through the portraits as not just homeless, or jobless, but as singular individuals with an important story and history. Portraiture is an extremely powerful tool of self discovery. There is something reached, something confronting, something born or remembered when an individual and an artist can coalesce into an honest creative space and energy.