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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Meet Meg Harper, eco-friendly artist

    Kevin C. Reagan

    Meg Harper makes her art the same way she lives her life: by putting nature first.

    The proud tree-hugger of Mesa, has been painting vibrant, colorful portraits for over 20 years. Frequently using animals such as coyotes, owls and donkeys as subjects, Harper decided five years ago to start painting only on recycled materials.

    Harper rummages through yard sales in search of items she can manipulate into serving as unique canvases for her ebullient paintings. Washing machine lids, guitar cases and old picture frames are all cleaned, polished and transformed by Harper to fit her art.

    “I think canvases are overrated,” Harper said. “I just wanted to do something different.”

    A great majority of Harper’s pieces are painted on scrap pieces of tin metal, which Harper said she usually finds in old chicken coops.

    According to Harper, painting on recycled materials can be more cost-effective than buying expensive art supplies. She added that her customers can also save money on not having to buy additional frames, as most of her works come prepared and ready to hang on the wall.

    Having already sold over 700 paintings across the country, Harper gets many requests from clients wanting her to paint portraits of their pets. Harper says her preference for painting animals is because of the greater margin of error that is permitted in comparison to painting a human.

    “We have such a stigma to how a human face should look,” Harper said. “With an animal, I have more wiggle room.”

    The eyes of the animal are a main focus for Harper’s paintings, as she said she believes it is the eyes that communicate what the animal cannot verbally express.

    Dressed in rugged cowboy boots and hat at this past weekend’s Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance’s Fine Art & Jazz festival, it’s hard to believe Harper is a native New Yorker. She first discovered art when doodling with magic markers as a child, but did not begin developing her craft until her sophomore year at the State University of New York at Cortland.

    Around this same time is when Harper first ventured out west to visit a family member and immediately fell in love with the majesty of the desert landscape. Since then, she has used the Arizona sunlight to broaden the color spectrum of her work. Swirls of red, yellow, orange and purple all fill Harper’s portraits, reflecting the natural beauty of an Arizona sunset.

    Harper said she likes to use symbolism when naming her artwork. The lid of a second-hand trunk with the portrait of a giraffe painted on the surface is titled “Limitless Expansion,” which is appropriate as the giraffe’s grand size permits opportunities for exploration the same way a trunk or suitcase suggests adventure and travel.

    “Shine in the Moonlight,” “Thinking of Eve” and “Can’t Fence Me In” are all other titles of Harper’s work she had on display at St. Philip’s Plaza on River Road for the weekend festival. The last title pertains to a portrait of a cow shown within the confines of a Southwestern-type ranch.

    “You can let go of your fences whenever you want,” Harper said when explaining the deeper, philosophical meanings of her work.

    Not all of Harper’s work has such cathartic undertones, as she also sells elaborate, wooden purses made from old cigar boxes. Using tiny knick-knacks, fuzzy felt and cartoon cut-outs to decorate the interior of the purses, Harper said these products allow her to be a little craftier.

    She also uses materials like unwanted belts as purse straps; Harper said these purses are very durable and fulfill her mission in bringing attention to the value of resourcefulness.

    “I want to help the planet by making people more conscious,” Harper said.


    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter.

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