Miami Beach's Deming Harriman is a builder of myth. Think of her as a less gnostic Abraxas; her duality lies not in good and evil, but in innocent whimsy and tortured yet empowering make-believe.
On one side she's an avid illustrator with a thick line that could pass with ease between the boldness of graffiti and the endearment of a progressive children's picture book. On the other, she's a builder of imagined portraiture, of women who exist within ether and answer to no one.
It is this line of her work, the "Goddesses," that will feature in tonight's opening at the Art Center South Florida.
A graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Harriman makes her living as a graphic designer where her illustrative skills are surely an asset. But it is in the universe of her collages that she truly excels. These works, ranging from the quixotic to the simplest combination of cut-out busts and butterflies, have the gravitas of the psychological anguish experienced by John Fowles' Nicholas Urfe in his masterwork, The Magus. But the images themselves are devoid of psychological trickery; it is the reverent care with which she sources her parts that create an empowered sum.
These might be imagined, repurposed images of individual women, but they are universal in strength and poise, and relatable to any woman.
Harriman sources the majority of her materials from found paper, photographs, books, the internet, and miscellaneously collected resources and manages to retain an ambiguous "look" for her finished pieces that invites an initial anachronism, but are surreptitiously surreal to repudiate it.
"I create images of women, but they are more than that, they are souls without the pressure of any stereotype," she explains. Where her illustrations release an inner whimsy, the ritualistic approach to creating her collages and finding a harmonious meticulousness reveal a deeper brooding: "Most all my goddesses are surrounded by magic and folklore. They live in another dimension and yet, are right in front of us. They are the output of my imagination and the world I create."
It is interesting that, though Harriman is a native of Miami Beach, there's little trace of the strip's Art Deco history influencing her work. She credits her grandfather with an early arts education in watercolor and seascape painting; from there, she went on to fill the gaps with an interest in Asia, the arts of the Asian courts, myths and the vintage aesthetics of the 1800s. In her work, details like the placement of a butterfly's wing and the commanding beak of a bird are all fragments of an elegant bestiary that are closer to a queen's commission than to a fantasy-laden surrealist still life.
As a young artist, beginning to get her legs in the arts world, Harriman is a creator and featured artist with Create Collect, where a number of her small and medium pieces can be acquired in the $160-500 range. Her exhibit, "Goddesses," opens tonight with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at O Cinema Wynwood, and runs through August 31.
Send your story tips to Cultist at [email protected].