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One painting makes you larger, one painting makes you small. Ron Harper’s “Quest,” on display at Ploy in Bremerton, challenges reality.  - Bill Mickelson/Staff photo
One painting makes you larger, one painting makes you small. Ron Harper’s “Quest,” on display at Ploy in Bremerton, challenges reality.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff photo

Ron Harper seems very much an artist who’s been down the rabbit hole.

Kind of like the characters he started incorporating into paintings about three years ago. They are cartoonish beings, seemingly from some other dimension, staring down curiously right now from the ceiling of the warehouse-like expanse that is Ploy Studios.

“You’re looking up at them on the wall, but they are looking up at you,” Harper said, grinning.

That seemingly contradictory thought is exactly what the self-described research artist is reaching for in this collection that represents a “Quest for Extra Dimensional Perceptions of the Universe.” The collection hangs this month at Ploy, 609 Fourth St. in Bremerton.

The one-eyed characters staring down from Ploy’s rafters are already there.

Though Harper has shown work in places like Gallery 110 in Seattle, the Port Angeles Fine Arts Festival and the recent CVG Show at Collective Visions in Bremerton, he is not an average fine artist.

In gallery settings like CVG’s statewide juried art show, Harper, 59, found “the person that’s likely to be looking at my work will be the kid that comes in off the street with a skateboard under his arm.”

His work is done with the precision and artistic ambition characteristic of the typical professional type, striving to create a piece of work that means something, but he’s creating “art that’s trying to do something.”

All too often art is made for the purpose of being aesthetically pleasing, Harper said.

With his “Quest” exhibit, Harper’s created an abstractly charming display while examining the borders and boundaries of contemporary human perception and asking viewers to do the same.

“What’s that little trick inside your brain that lets you see another dimension?” Harper asked, thinking back to the revolutionary Renaissance artists who ushered the third dimension into art.

INSIDE THE GALLERY, HARPER’S MIND

Harper’s “Quest” is a strange and diverse body of work, a geometric dream of sorts. Stare at the exhibit long enough and Jefferson Airplane might just start playing “White Rabbit” inside your head.

One of the most dream-like pieces of the show, called “The Wharping” invokes another one-eyed character like those staring down from the ceiling. Only, “this guy is either leaving or just found himself in another universe,” Harper said.

The piece spawned from a dream Harper had, in which, he was stuck inside a paint bucket that was in one of the big mechanical shakers like you find at the hardware store.

His character is in the same sort of predicament only he’s being shaken about through different dimensions, all revolving around one power source akin to the paint-shaker machine.

It’s precisely painted and boldly colored contemplation.

Next to “The Wharping” hangs an immense painting created largely by the absence of precision.

It’s a massive work with a cavernous pink ceiling and a bottom line made of clouds and sky while spontaneous black squiggle lines fade into the distance. It dates back to the 1970s in a warehouse in San Francisco’s mission district, when Harper said he’d created it by spontaneously airbrushing layers, seeing where the painting took itself. Hence the name “Airspatz.”

Directly across from “Airspatz” is another completely different work, that’s not really a painting or piece of art at all, a contraption that’s “more just notes,” Harper said.

It’s a very coy piece called “Ellipses” that examines infinity with a mirror at either end of the canvas.

The quotation “You can’t see it all until you put yourself in it and then you can’t” is written across the bottom of Harper’s notes.

Ron Harper’s “Quest for Extra Dimensional Perceptions of the Universe” will be up through the end of the month at Ploy Studios Gallery, 609 Fourth St. in

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