Turning Inside-Out — My Inner/Outer Life

Animals have always influenced me greatly, and I feel a bond with them that seems to come from my bones and cells. They have wisdom, courage, complexity…and the capacity to love, in a way that humans sometimes forget. They are a universe we need to discover, in order to be in touch with our own humanity.

I have been deeply concerned about the plight of animals, and the abuse of the earth, since the very beginning, as both problems are related. My partner, Alan Baer, and I live with five cats, all rescued strays who adopted us. Each one is different, and very intelligent. One of our cats, Zoe, is feral, and beautiful. She, like all the others, is a real survivor.

And so am I.

Having been raised in West Palm Beach, Florida in the 1950’s by a single mother, my childhood was difficult. We struggled. But, I learned a great deal from that struggle, about integrity, and never giving up. It was a somewhat solitary life, and the animals, both domestic and wild, were my friends and best teachers.

I have dyslexia, and learning to read was not easy at first. I still get lost easily, because right and left are confusing. Up until recent years my time was split between having to work for a living, working in the studio, and exhibiting my art. But I have persevered, and have been actively creating art throughout my adult life, as well as having exhibited widely. Now I work in the studio full-time. As my life has simplified, so has my work.

In my art I am working for my character, as well as getting in touch with the animal nature. I love knowledge and innocence together, and the coming together of dark and light. My work is often soft on the outside, but there is power within. When I am working, “beings” emerge when I caress the surface. Since 1979 I have spoken and sung in a language, “Animal Tongues” which I now perform.

“Cat With Raw Nose” Video Link
2006, beeswax, damar resin and encaustic 6.25 x 6 x 8 inches
by Jan Harrison

My art and life are closely related, and my work involves the philosophy of deep ecology as well as animal rights and animal consciousness. I have never understood the cruelty in the world, the exploitation of power, or the need to destroy. In different ways, I have investigated this throughout my life as an artist. However, although I am very serious about the things I care deeply about, I still have a sense of humor.

There are many artists, composers, musicians, and poets living near us, many of them friends. We live between the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, about two hours north of New York City, so we have an active life in the mountains as well as in the city.

Jan Harrison