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 work features hand embroidered batik portraits or Philadelphia homeless individuals, as well as large hand sewn art quilt portraits.
During this strange and terrible year, a lot has been said about the importance of art in times of crisis. Our necessary obsession with being safe is causing us to turn away from those people and institutions most in need. Harper believes that what is needed now is art that can humanize us.
Art cannot necessarily change behaviors, nor is compassion developed just by looking at art. Nevertheless, it is an antidote in times of chaos, a force of resistance and repair. It is the deconstruction of stereotypes that most interests Harper, as she creates portraits of those we would rather not see or interact with, especially during these times of fear and social distancing. Through her portraits, Harper asks us to contemplate the tradeoffs we make every day- can we hand a homeless person a dollar or a cup of coffee? Or is this too risky? If we reduce life to mere preservation of life, does it in the end become meaningless? Now, more than ever, we need to interact with those with whom we do NOT identify with - those whose differences are formidable, or even, in the case of politics, offensive. Harper reminds us not to let our fears and social distancing safety protocols prevent us from showing, and sharing, our humanity.