October 15, 1940 - January 10, 2017
"I am a maker of images. I use a visual language at least as old as speech itself. This language of line, form and color is a tool that I use in attempting to understand myself and the world around me. My painting is not solely an intellectual activity but a total activity involving all my senses and resources as a human being. Whenever I talk or write about my work, I am always acutely aware of the fact that I am translating a visual language into the language of intellectual thought and speech. The frailty and imprecision of a translation is always hazardous. The purest statement of my intentions as a painter is found in my work. This visual language transcends many of the limitations of time and culture and can be accessible to a greater number of people. It is of no importance to me whether or not I am an “artist” or whether or not what I do is “art”.
The primary premise of my work is based upon my observation that every surface is deceptive – be it the surface of an object, a place or an event. Nothing is simply as it appears to be. Whatever truth we can know as human beings is hidden beneath the surface appearance of life. My work is an attempt to move beyond this deceptive surface in an effort to understand something closer to the truth about myself and my life. I do not think that this truth is about answers; it is about questions. Man’s understanding of himself is superficial. There are so many more questions to be asked before we can even begin to guess at any of the answers. For me, painting is the perpetual posing of questions.
My work is also a celebration. It is a celebration of the beauty, the mystery and the exciting questions of life. It is this sense of celebration that I wish to share in showing my work. Finally, my work is an attempt to repay the gift of my life and accept my mortality. We are all the servants of time. I, too, am subjected to the will of time but through my work I feel that I have touched time.
From the opening address for an exhibition of Harley's work in Vertova, Italy - May 1986
Read a remembrance of Harley's life