David Jacob Harder is a visual artist who is making waves across the province with his unique and often big and bold pieces. I met him at The Art We Are weeks ago and to be honest, he was such a brain it was hard for me to keep up with him.
He entered the shop with a happy, professional energy, pausing to say hello to people he knew. All smiles, he pulled up a chair and we began our interview. I wanted to know about his childhood and how it has impacted his current art career.
The stories he told of his childhood intrigued me. He grew up homeschooled in remote places in the BC Interior. It was sort of a back-to-land upbringing and he still lives by similar principles today. At one point he lived in Kamloops where he attended TRU and studied social history and studio visual arts, predominantly sculpture, drawing and painting. He finished with a Bachelor of Fine Arts as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History in 2012.
“Creating was something that was always such a big part of my life. Being a home-schooled child enabled me to have a great deal of time to focus on things outside of academics. It empowered me to explore things beyond the everyday. There was a great deal of alone time but also a great deal of time spent creating forts and rafts and all sorts of structures with my siblings. Discovering that I could study art to gather a deeper understanding for some of the concepts that were entrenched in my life principles attracted me.
The forms that I eventually started working with relayed concepts from my upbringing as a semi-feral child. Not to sound corny or Swiss Family Robinson, but we were really living in the bush and I guess my reaction to life outside the bush and life in the bush is what informed a lot of the pieces I was making and the theories and concepts I wanted to investigate. Expressing myself through different art forms has allowed me to dig deeper into why I feel the way I do about certain places and times and things, whether animate or inanimate objects, and my relationship to this status quo. Not to say that I’m above anything, but simply to say that I am a part of that.”
The biggest projects David has done are his public artworks. He loves the process of creating big pieces yet they are a lot of work. It is challenging getting to know the new mediums and the people involved, including park planners and other levels of government.
“I was able to work with community members and people in these beautiful towns. They allowed me to kind of become part of their communities and relay their stories. One that comes to mind is my public sculpture from within in the City of Kelowna where I worked with a KARIS woman’s society to make a piece that inspired recovery after histories of abuse.”
I first met David almost two years ago when I went to our Kamloops Powder Coaters and saw a gigantic metal man lying on their lot. My eyes bugged out of my head! I called CBC Kamloops to tell anchor Shelley Joyce about my discovery. She quickly connected with David to get the full scoop!
“My largest project was the piece entitled ‘Together’ for the city of Richmond’s new Minoru Center for Active Living. The piece took approximately two years to create and was a 20 ft tall sculpture of a parental figure walking hand-in-hand with its child. The entire body was made of hundreds of steel silhouettes of the actual people from the city of Richmond. To build this piece I worked with my brother Aaron Harder, who is a master builder and incredible artist. My team and I took the photos and cut them out of steel. We formed them into these enormous figures that now stand in downtown Richmond.
It was very stressful and I probably have a decent amount of grey hairs because of it. It was the largest and most ambitious work that I’ve done to date and I feel very fortunate to be able to have taken that concept and turn it into a reality. When I first received the commission for that work I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. I’m happy to say the city let me know they received a lot of positive feedback which I see as a success and I can hold my head high when I go in and start a new piece in the studio.”
The most recent reason I touched base with David, and this time in person, was due to his exhibition at the Kamloops Art Gallery’s cube space this passed spring. The exhibition consisted of a series of cast objects from his everyday interactions of things that are made out of plastic and polymers. He has been keeping a journal for a few years of every plastic item he touches in a day. He used different scientific periodicals to estimate the lifespan of each piece.
“I have had days that are close to a million years of existence of plastic items. It sounds shocking and it really was when I started the project, knowing how long some of these things will be around long after I’m dead. I tried to avoid the single-use items but sometimes I feel that our society is kind of contained in a way that we have to use these things. Even as somewhat of an environmentalist it was unavoidable for me to use plastics and polymers. One of my lowest accounts in a day was a hundred thousand years and I thought I was doing great by only using that few items but in actuality a hundred thousand years is longer than we can even imagine or record.”
The evening at the Art Gallery exhibit on July 13th was a highlight for David. Friends and family came out from Kamloops and beyond to attend.
“It was beautiful. An artist’s support unit is somewhat their community of other artists, people who can empathize and conceptualize along with you and sort of be a sounding board in a way. I would say my biggest supporters are my family, friends and most of all my partner. They allow me to be myself and support me through thick and thin because ultimately it is a challenge every day to stay inspired doing so many self-directed things. It is nice to feel the warm embrace of their support.”
‘I’m trying to convey the understanding that even though we may feel like small cogs in the wheel, we are inextricably linked to the biosphere around us and we have more in common with the trees than a mobile device. For every action there is an equal or greater reaction. A lot of it is simply a celebration and recognition of art. Seemingly mundane days are special in so many ways. In order to preserve and celebrate we must be aware of our surroundings and really take time to nurture our own nature.’-DJH