3 Questions with Del Harrow
Sculptor and educator Del Harrow on research, problem solving, and the complex qualities of a material.
3 QUESTIONS is series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.
“That piece helped me understand something about… the power
of material to communicate
a profound meaning.”
What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?
I’m an educator as well as an artist. As a teacher I feel wary of giving advice to students. There are so many ways to think about having a career in the arts – I’m sure ways I can’t yet imagine.
As a Professor with an appointment at a research University I’m mindful of what it means to have a research practice as a visual artist. This is also something I ask of my students. Research is a skill that requires active cultivation. It can mean a lot of different things but I think it extends beyond “just making your work.” Research can nourish the work. It infuses the work with new ideas, and can also inspire systems for connecting your work with the culture.
How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?
I can get really involved in problem solving in the studio. I have a fairly technically complex studio practice, which makes me feel like I am always learning new things and engaged in a community of other people who are researching and sharing information.
On the other hand, in the end, making art is not about technique or problem solving.
Navigating between these ways of thinking feels deeply challenging…
Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?
Maybe I should preface this answer by saying that I come from a strong secular upbringing and I’m not talking about a specifically religious experience here:
There is a small porcelain Christ figurine in the Metropolitan Museum that I first encountered about 10 years ago. It’s probably about 9” tall and was made in Italy right when they were figuring out how to work with porcelain in Europe, so there are all these little cracks in the body. The stigmata are rendered in incredible detail – these tiny flaps of flesh – and the blood pouring out is rendered as porcelain filigree in high relief. That piece helped me understand something about the incredibly complex qualities of a material, and the power of material to communicate a profound meaning. It’s a piece that is really humbling – I don’t think I’ve gotten close to it but it’s something I think about often – and, in the abstract, has a quality I aspire to produce in my work.
Del Harrow is a sculptor and educator based in Fort Collins, Colorado. His work in ceramics explores the intersection of digital design and manual, skill-based fabrication processes. Harrow is an assistant professor of art at Colorado State University and has taught at Penn State University and Kansas City Art Institute. He has taught a number of workshops that address digital and parametric modeling in conjunction with analog fabrication and “hands-on” work with clay.