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Connected Through the Human Experience - Part 2

Connected Through the Human Experience - Part 2


Come Along With Me is the OAC Riffe Gallery’s current exhibition, and fourth collaboration with Ohio Art League (OAL). Curated by Richard Fletcher, associate professor in the Department of Classics at The Ohio State University, this exhibition materializes the experiences of 18 artists across the state.


The artwork featured in Come Along With Me is dense and embedded with stories, layered from experiences. I interviewed three artists to find out more about what lies within their work. Read the first post with Dan Jian here.


In our second interview, I learned more about the motivations behind Charisse M. Harris' work, which struck Fletcher with its immediacy and vibrancy.


“I was also really curious about how and why she decided to focus on head-dresses and hair, as well as her use of fabric in addition to paint,” said Fletcher. “What I enjoyed most about my visit with Charisse was how she broke down the development of her work and how it made such sense as a trajectory from one work to the next. From the oldest work—the portrait of a man behind lace—to her paintings of hair-wrappings and mixed media works with hair, to her work in progress that returned to the figure of the African American male, but with what she’d learned of her materials and fabrics along the way. All of which Charisse described as ‘soul-portraits’.”

Charisse M. Harris, Braiding... an Honorable Legacy, 2016, Acrylic, charcoal, and fabric on luan, 14" x 24"

Charisse M. Harris, Black & Mild, 2014, Oil and lace on canvas, 20" x 16"

Kim Webb – Can you expand on your material approach, how is your medium connected to your concepts?

Charisse M. Harris - At any given time, we are simultaneously part of a number of groups, groups that we move to and from regularly. My portraits have become representative of that transitory nature of our personal and social identities. What we see is one thing, but there will always be another part of someone or something that we cannot see, and what is immediate is not always the most important part of a person. Identity is never monolithic—meaning we should never be limited to just one thing. The multiple layers of significance in my work is reflective of our move from one identity space to another. By manipulating textiles, paint and other materials firmly rooted with rich histories my work echoes the implicit function and necessity of plural human identity.

Charisse M. Harris, Protective, 2015, Acrylic, luan wood, 24" x 32"

K.W. - What compels you to hair and hair-coverings?

C.M.H. - I’ve always been drawn to portraiture from Jan Van Eyck to Lucian Freud and more recently artists like Lorna Simpson. With Simpson’s lithographs of wigs, I deeply appreciated how she combined ambiguous text with images in order to play with identity. Works like this pushed me to consider how meaning can depend upon context and use association.



You can view Charisse M. Harris’ work among her fellow OAL members in Come Along With Me through April 15 at OAC Riffe Gallery.

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio's artists and the collections of the state's museums and galleries. The Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, across from the Statehouse on High Street in Downtown Columbus. Like the Riffe Gallery on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Kim Webb, 2017-18 OAC Riffe Gallery Marketing and Exhibitions Fellow

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