Jan Harrison

Jan Harrison, photo by Alan Baer

Jan Harrison is an American painter and sculptor whose work, which primarily features animal imagery, centers on the animal nature as it relates to human existence and the collective psyche. Since 1979 her art has been connected with the philosophy of deep ecology. She speaks and sings in Animal Tongues, which she performs in conjunction with her visual art.

Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, Jan Harrison has also lived in Georgia, California, Ohio, and New York. Since 1989 she has lived in New York’s Hudson Valley. Jan Harrison’s art is in numerous public and private collections. She has been the recipient of five grants and fellowships, and has been the subject of many essays and reviews. Her art has been shown in over two hundred solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally, including The Animals Look Back at Us, curator: Sara Lynn Henry, in New York. Her work was exhibited in Animal.Anima.Animus, curators: Linda Weintraub and Marketta Seppälä, in museums in Finland, Holland, Canada, and PS1, New York.

In 2003 a chapter regarding her art was published in the book, In The Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art, Linda Weintraub, d.a.p., New York, NY. In 2011 an article about her visual art as it relates to singing in Animal Tongues was published in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, New York, NY.

To learn more, follow these links.

The books she mentions in the interview are Catherine Keller’s book, Cloud of the Impossible, and also the book by Paul Shepard, The Others.

BALANCE, 2015, 22.5 x 30.25 inches, pastel, ink, charcoal, and colorpencil on rag paper . (Series: “Animals in the Anthropocene.” )
RABBIT REVERIE, 2016, 30.25 x 22.5 inches, pastel, ink, charcoal, and oilstick on rag paper . (Series: “Animals in the Anthropocene.” )
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  1. […] Jan Harrison is creating a series of ink and pastel painting on rag paper involving endangered animal species. Her work explores the animal nature and the psyche and often represents animals going from one state of being to another, in other words, shape-shifting between species sometimes becoming hybrids. Her current series was exhibited at Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties, New York as part of a group show and is slated for more exhibitions. In 1979, Harrison dreamed she came upon a bird while walking along the bank of a river. She lifted the bird and discovered a medallion around its neck that matched one she realized she wore around her own neck. In the dream, the medallions allowed Harrison to communicate with the bird. Days after the dream, she began speaking and singing in “animal tongues” which allows her animal nature to be represented through language. Harrison has experienced animal responses when speaking in this way around both domestic and wild animals. She compares her animal language to the communication between a work of art and a viewer. Harrison uses the term language to describe her vocalizations though she is aware that it is something separate from language as commonly defined. She has found that using human words while communicating with animals can create barriers to connection. Harrison has performed her animal tongues, often in conjunction with her visual art and sometimes including movement. In addition to painting, Harrison is also a sculptor though currently, her focus is primarily on two-dimensional art. One of her more recent series, Animals in the Anthropocene, represents whole bodied animals interacting, changing, and moving. Harrison’s work, in a broad sense, speaks to the fact that we are all together on one planet that needs protecting if we are to survive. To hear Jan Harrison speak in animal tongues, listen to the complete interview. […]