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Duo exhibit shows Harmons’ varying approaches to abstract painting

March 3rd, 2022

Detail of painting by Susan Harmon

Last chance to see the exhibit by David and Susan Harmon in the Regier Gallery, which closes with an artist reception tonight, 6-8 p.m. at the gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

The two painters, a husband and wife, make different explorations of the medium of oil in “Painterly Aesthetics.”

Susan Harmon and David Harmon “both approach paint in a non-objective way,” said Bethel Professor of Visual Art and Design David Long.

“In that, I would call them abstract painters with a more academic approach to color, composition and movement.

“David is more interested in building up his surfaces with paint and color and the movement that creates.

“Susan is less so. Combining paints on fabric is a whole other tradition.

“So ‘Painterly Aesthetics’ really speaks to a more formalistic approach to painting than would be seen in typical subject/object based compositions.”

David Harmon’s work featured in the Regier Gallery is focused on a series of tondi, plural of the Renaissance term tondo, a circular work of a type artists have been creating since ancient Greece.

“My recent paintings exemplify a process of wrapping or layering impasto acrylic paint on various oval and round formats,” Harmon said in an artist statement.

“A large palette knife allows me to layer thick impasto interweaving and overlapping swathes of paint. … Each painting is an adventure in direct expression of color swathes composed in a swirling direction akin to a spiral or whirlpool found in celestial and terrestrial nature.”

Of her somewhat “mixed-media” paintings, Susan Harmon says, “My work is a visual collection of emotion. … The unleashed splattering of gestural paint strokes on fabric with a hand-sewn border and backing, a part of the release of angst as in Abstract Expressionism, are evident in my own work.

“Combined with a textural layering of paint and sometimes added materials of sand, string or discarded drawings, [this leads] to expressive mark-making in meaningful contexts, evident in this body of art. …

“My works are informed by books, especially stories about women who have suffered trauma and their road to recovery, as well as, more recently, by stories from the island of Saipan [Northern Marianas], where I was living and teaching before the pandemic.”

David Harmon was born in St. Louis, and realized he wanted to be a painter when he saw the traveling Vincent van Gogh exhibition at St. Louis’s City Art Museum, where he also spent hours studying the museum’s rich collection of German Expressionists.

Harmon holds an MFA in painting from Penn State and a BFA in painting from Webster University, St. Louis, and has done doctoral coursework in visual studies at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

He has been showing his work for more than 30 years in international and national exhibition venues that have included museums, galleries and community art centers.

He has taught at Northern Marianas College; Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Texas; Central Texas College in Killeen; the University of Arizona; the State University of New York; the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg; Indiana University; Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.; Bethel College, Mishawaka, Ind.; and Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design; and has curated numerous exhibitions at many of these.

Susan Harmon was born and raised in Chicago.

She holds a BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a second BFA in graphic design from the University of Illinois.

She earned an MFA degree from Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, and has done doctoral work in studio art at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and, through a fellowship, at the Julia and David White Art Residency in Costa Rica.

Harmon was recently commissioned to complete five murals for the city of San Marcos, Texas, 60 feet long and 20 tall. She has exhibited nationally and internationally.

She teaches studio art courses at the Fort Hood and Marble Falls campuses of Central Texas College.

Susan and David Harmon are based in Bel Aire, Kan. They have been married for 40 years and are the parents of four sons.

The public is invited to the Harmons’ April 7 reception.

Regular Regier Gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #15 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #31 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, both for 2021-22. Bethel was the only Kansas college or university selected for the American Association of College & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, and has been named a TRHT Campus Center. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.