Monster Talent - Artist David Harouni

July 31, 2012
Frankenstein might not have been the cutest guy at the bar, and while the 'morning after' might involve washing some green out of your Laura Ashley pillow cases, it's his inner vulnerability and good heart under all that green stuff that makes him, well, irresistible. And, while a date with The Wolfman might not be great for your Scalamandre drapes, it's his romantic background story that could make you look past the furry face and attachment to sniffing our 2(x) ist underwear. Oh, and what about the hot guy living under interstate with half a face and the great abs and silky cape? Wait, he's under the opera house, not the interstate; sorry, I'm confused. Anyone remember The Phantom of the Opera?

In fact, almost all of the horror monsters that we love to hate have a background story that just might have us loving to love them more than loving to hate them. Get past the wacky outfits, questionable dental hygiene, and weird dispositions during full moons and we fall in love with the poor little thing: a victim who's been jilted in love, mocked by his peers, or just plain treated like crap.

Peeling back the layer of anything is what makes us fall farther in love, or in interest, with each layer we remove. When we have to work to understand something, we walk away either intimidated and disgusted, or succeed in understanding what is before us depending on the talent and beauty that lies beneath the layers.

Art, for instance, is exactly the same way. While some people might see excessive texture as a distraction, the truth is that, properly used, layers of texture create multiple stories and images in one creation. Forcing the viewer to use their imagination, and working to remove the layers allows the true message to emerge; a message that is created and translated by an artist is sometimes made up of as many layers and life stories as his paintings. Experiences and life changing events spark the fire of some of the most beautiful monsters in the art business.

In the French Quarter, 900 Royal Street houses the works of an artist known for his texture, his depth, and his migration from flat visible surfaces to architecturally created layers of genius. David Harouni has been a fixture in the New Orleans art scene, especially the Royal Street scene, for some time now. Collectors from all over have taken a bit of the Big Easy home with them via the Harouni Gallery. His works line the walls of the small but impressively decorated gallery. Harouni's trademark images are of the face; some with crowns, some clearly described, while others hide behind layers of paint, or a thin veil of blur. While some might see them a repeat of a similar image, each one lives on its own, with its own personality, having its own mood, and its own story. While visiting the gallery and the website, the first thing to notice is that the compositions might be a bit limited. The limited compositions serve to allow the texture, the layers, and the colors to bring forth the most basic forms from the artist's hands. For example some of the images on the gallery walls posses less texture than most. These often times smaller, less-texturized paintings still manage to hold the same attention as the more layered and larger pieces. With a slightly blurred image, the softened edges create an imaginary layer of air, or fog. The image apparent just beyond this imaginary cover may not have depths of paint to investigate, however, the illusion of layers serves the same point as the layers of paint. We are drawn in to investigate and to wait for the fog to clear so that we might see the hidden and illusive image. The image appears to be hiding, waiting for us to approach, tempting us to peel back the layers to appreciate the true and full beauty of the red accent in the mouth, and the angled brow leading us into the center of a nondescript, but interesting, face.

The more textured and seemingly complicated pieces - see any piece donning a crown (those are my favorites for obvious reasons) - add, at first glance, a complicated mesh of color and paint dominating an image so much that, in some cases, the face looks as if to be two on one canvas. In fact, the layers seem to represent a journey from the simplest of forms to the most complicated. As the face ages it may become less physically attractive, but the person behind that face will more than likely have far more interesting stories to tell. As the texture is added, the stories become deeper, more vivid, and more meaningful. Without the texture and the stories, the image just becomes a boring old face, like all the others faces out there.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about good art is that we feel a connection to the artist who creates it. Just by looking at the work, we can get an idea of what the artist might have experienced in life; we might be able to tell their mood, their fantasies, or their convictions. It's easy to see not only the journey of David Harouni's hands across the canvas, but also the journey of his mind and his experiences across the canvas as well. The free movement of the brush strokes and the loose placement of the paint describe an artist who is not married to the manner by which he creates, only to creating. Harouni does not appear to plan the way a piece will look as much as he resolves the way the piece will look after working and negotiating with the medium in the piece. He creates a journey with paint that ends in dynamic, multilayered, visual journeys that have been collected locally, and worldwide. What's on the surface makes you want to jump into the journey that takes you to a complete and beautiful creation. That speaks volumes about the artist as well as his talents.

So you see, judging a book or a painting by its cover might be a big mistake. Looking deeper into what is not so apparent can often times reveal more beauty than one could even imagine.

And so......While judging a monster by his cover might not be the best thing to do when looking for 'mister right', it certainly is a great way to start enjoying the creations of David Harouni, and not to mention, it's much better for your fine fabrics.