David R Harper’s artwork is about the projection or imposition of meaning on an object, especially concerning memorial in death. He embroiders over taxidermy animals on prints of still life paintings from the 18th century. He sees the dead animals as a human way of addressing mortality; feeling empathy for the dead animal, but also as a way of avoiding grappling with our own inevitable demise. The embroidery creates a void or emptiness, especially literal in the white thread, and more dynamic but equally vacant with the use of green patterning in The Fall. Thread operates in most cases as a cold medium and Harper employs it extremely effectively in combination with his meticulous technique.
His most ambitious work is titled I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, presumably a quasi-reference to the Rolling Stones song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, as well as Napoleon’s conquests. Harper embroiders the entire horse of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In the original artwork the horse is mostly white with black on its tail and head, where Harper creates a gradient that transforms from black to light grey. What is truly incredible is that this process doesn’t flatten the horse; it retains its form in the sculpting of the flow of the thread. The beast becomes much more powerful and haunting
Art Info has a great slideshow that compares Harper’s sculpture and embroidery work to other well-known artists. See it here.