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* Native American Art

* Interview with artist, Michael D. Harris

* Showcasing artists with disabilities

Native American Art


Some websites that showcase Native American Art


Prolific, Diverse Artist: Michael D. Harris

Michael D. Harris

We present this special interview with Dr. Michael D. Harris, an artist, professor, scholar, and curator presently living in Atlanta, whose art is extremely fascinating, combining diverse mediums such as paper, cloth and glass,  Michael also uses pictures, post cards, newspaper, and wood to create pieces of art that are expressive and thoughtful.  Each of his art pieces tells a story which can be interpreted in various ways depending upon the viewer.

As a scholar, Harris has published Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation (2003), and has contributed to or co-authored a number of publications. His articles on contemporary African art and African American art are published in a number of books and journals.

Also an artist, Harris has been a member of the artist collective, AfriCOBRA since 1979, and has shown throughout the United States, in the Caribbean, and in Europe. His work is represented in the collections of Morehouse College, Howard University, the University of North Carolina, the City of Atlanta, the Hampton University Museum, Dillard University, the David Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Atlanta airport, and in many private collections.

 “For me, my work is not diverse nor am I diverse.  I am centered within my consciousness and my experience so this is normalcy for me.  Hopefully, the uniqueness of my experience and personality offers something new to viewers who then diversify their own array or references and perspectives through the encounter.”

Anita: I have always found your art amazing…it’s so creative! You use various mediums (if that is the right word) to express yourself in your art…..such as paper, glass, cloth…..and then you use pictures, postcards, newspaper etc and mix all of these to create very diverse art pieces…..why do you use so many different mediums? Which medium do you like best?

Michael: Media is like language.  I find the right word to express the thought, not use the word for its own pleasure.             

Anita: Is the process and impact of using colors different with different mediums?

Michael: Yes.  Color inks differ from acrylic paints, which differ from using cloth.  Knowing how color will appear in different settings affects the choices I make using media.        

Anita: You have titled one of your paintings in the HerStories section as, “What Are You?” Why did you use the word ‘What” and why not “Who?”

Michael: The point is that irony.  Women of color often are asked that question.  So I put that in the title, followed by "For Colored Girls Who are Cornered."  Then I etched the name of each woman into the glass atop her image, and on the wall, there was another layer of identity listed: African American - Ethiopian - Brazilian - Irish and African American - Jamaican, Scotch, Puerto Rican -- Black.  People are to guess which is which, which, of course, is beside the point.  The idea is to raise the absurdity of the question.   

Anita: Yes, I understand…that’s beautiful and deep. In some of your artistic creations you tend to use the same image a couple of times in different colors…why? What are you trying to depict with repetition?

Michael: Repetition is rhythm, and it is a compositional element holding a work together visually.  

Anita: I see, and to me it also reiterates your focus on a particular theme. In the creation, “Everywhere I Go They Find Me?”  Who is “They?”    

Michael: If you look closely, that is what one of the signs on the pole says.  It creates some open-ended speculation about its meaning for the viewer.         

Anita: Yes, I see that…intriguing!  Could you please explain a bit about your journey in creating such diverse art pieces and in establishing acceptability?  Have people found it hard to relate to your creative expressions?  What I am trying to get to is that diversity or “different” may not be easy to understand or accept.

Michael: I think of my work as evolving over time as my ideas, information, and personality have evolved.  So there have been shifts in technique and media, as well as subject matter.  What many people may find difficult to understand is the many historical and African diasporic cultural references in my work.  Most people are tuned to see representational, predictable images that do all the work for them.  My work asks the viewer to work a little to uncover and discover the layers of meaning and imagery -- a creative archaeology of sorts.  For me, my work is not diverse nor am I diverse.  I am centered within my consciousness and my experience so this is normalcy for me.  Hopefully, the uniqueness of my experience and personality offers something new to viewers who then diversify their own array or references and perspectives through the encounter.            

Anita: Your art piece, “Patchwork” is another example of your diversity.  Was that something you put together?  Can you please explain how you created that art piece?

Michael: Survivor Patchwork is a work honoring the black survivors of Rosewood, Florida, and by extension, those of Wilmington, NC (1898) and Tulsa Oklahoma (ca. 1923).  These were towns obliterated by jealous white, racist violence and terrorism.  The work is formed like a reliquary to honor their lives, and to give a sense of protecting oneself, as symbolically happens with quilts.  In this case, the patchwork is made of leather, a stronger material than ordinary quilts.  It becomes like Memory Jar or an evidence portrait with the bits of memorabilia from their lives on the altar-like shelf.  

Anita: If you don’t mind my asking what is your fascination with Black women’s hair?  What does it depict            for you?    

Michael: It is a way of doing a consciousness/stylistic portrait of a woman's life through the archaeology of her hair. As you dig down through the strata of styles, colors, cuts over a woman's life, you can chart the changes in her.  

Anita:  Many thanks Michael for this chance to discuss your work and gain insights into your very diverse creative spirit. 

Michael:  My pleasure.

To view Michael D. Harris’s work, visit his web site:


Artists With Disabilities

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