December 2013

Art Multi-Dimensional for Shawn Ray Harris

Morgane Byloos

Walking next to a rabbit or a pig on the streets of San Francisco may be out of the ordinary, but it’s exactly the kind of absurdity that fuels Shawn Ray Harris’ art. Harris is currently focusing on his Hadaptation series, which portrays people wearing animal masks and regular clothes. Those half-human, half-animal creatures hang-out in Potrero Hill and the Mission, where Harris photographs them in one take, or combines images of the character and the background.

Harris has tried to defy photography’s two-dimensional characteristic, and make it a Three-D art form, since he attended the University of Utah, about 20 years ago. One of his pieces, “Unleashing the White Collared Marionette,” can be seen at Dogpatch Café through early 2014. According to the café’s owner, John Warner, the piece seems to have been made for the spot it occupies right in front of the entrance.

The 43-year-old photographer moved to San Francisco from Salt Lake City six years ago hoping to find a more art friendly environment. “I needed to move to a city that has a little better scene,” he said. “San Francisco was as different as I could get.”

In Utah Harris worked for as a product photographer. Since arriving in San Francisco he’s lived at a sort of artist commune: Developing Environments, located at Alabama and Mariposa streets. The live/work situation enables Harris to make ends meet while doing what he loves: photography.

According to Harris, roughly 85 percent of his space is dedicated to his studio. The rest, including a fold-out Murphy bed, serves as his living area. “Otherwise, I don’t see how artists do it,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s high rents. “Making art and being able to stay in this economic climate is pretty amazing.” Twice a year, the artists living at Developing Environments open up their bedrooms/studios to show their art.

Marianne Whong, who has known Harris for the past three years through various open studio events, appreciates Harris’ approach to mixing three- and two-dimensions. “He captures San Francisco’s energy and mixes it with his Utah upbringing,” she said. Whong likes the Hadaptation series because the animal heads bring childhood fantasy to an adult level.

Though Hadaptation is Harris’ latest creation and current focus, he’s worked in photography for the past 18 years. When he was attending university, Harris touched on everything, from painting to film to print-making and photography. His background has allowed him to incorporate different types of art forms into his photographic work to make it three-dimensional. According to Harris, making something different is the key to being a successful artist.

Harris first started by drawing around his photographs, later adding sculptural elements. He tried making pop-up books of different cities, but quickly stopped because it involved too much computer time. His 3D photographs have to be viewed with 3D glasses, and look like three-color outlines. It took about a year for Harris to fully nail down the process of making these types of pictures. “I haven’t seen anybody else do anything like it,” Harris said. “People sometimes contact me to ask how I do it.” Harris, however, has moved away from 3D photo-making because of the amount of time the process takes; up to six hours to edit a single photograph.

Harris offers his work at affordable prices. “Pricing of my work is incredibly important to me,” he said. “My hope is to have something affordable for anyone looking at art. I will always make an attempt to have something for $20. But at the same time, I have sculptural work that is valued in the $2,000 to $4,000 range.”

This month Harris will show his Hadaptation work in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona. For more information:

Subscribe to The Potrero View

All rights reserved. Copyright © 2014 The Potrero View.

Content on this site may not be archived, retransmitted, saved in a database, or used for any commercial purpose without the express written permission of The Potrero View or its Publishers.