Jake Harwell was born in 1950 in Oklahoma to migrant farmers with experiences reminiscent
of the Grapes of Wrath, only two decades later. They moved from Oklahoma to California for
the peach picking season then returned for the rest of the year, piling the entire family with 5
kids in the cab of a small pickup with precious belongings tightly packed in the bed of the
truck. Eight more truckloads of relatives followed in a caravan, until the return the next
year. Those trips to California endeared Jake to the ocean and mountains for life. He
currently resides in New Mexico and still plans regular trips to California fulfilling his itch to move.
Jake’s self-taught explorations express his innate guidance to invent something new - in a
way that has not been done. His farmer work-ethic combined with his excited drive provide
the discipline to continually produce his art with an amazing amount of variety. His furniture
has a rustic elegance, he builds intricate landscape arbors, creates found metal compositions
and forms sculptures of salvaged rawhide remnants.
The rawhide work has proved to be the most provoking for his viewers. This work has
garnered broad acceptance within one year of being discovered. His work has been featured
at the Outsider Art Fair in SoHo, NY, in the UK magazine ‘Raw Vision’ and he is scheduled to
show in Paris in November 2001.
When I first found the rawhide I didn’t know how I was going to use it until I started
working with it. I work with it wet and once it dries, the texture is never as supple
again. The interest of collectors inspired me to make more pieces and to diversify by
including wood or junk metal with the rawhide.
Making a living from my art has been on my mind for many year. I travel extensively and
find new materials to work wherever I go. When I gather materials I only pick up pieces
that stand out from their surroundings. The gathering tends to be compulsive at times, because
I enjoy the activity of finding stuff and it is exciting to me. I never have a plan for my art, it just happens as I go.
My studio in Rinconada developed over ten years and displays my collections of work. When I need more
display space I add another shed or wall and this method created the environment you see from the
highway. I call it The Dirt Floor Gallery.
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