Carla Jay Harris's mission is to document intellectual, emotional, and psychological environments. She trained as a photographer, however, in recent years she has developed a multidisciplinary practice that includes photography, installation, collage, and drawing. This transformation was inspired by her desire to bring together her interests in image-making, space, and spectatorship. Harris's interest in installation is rooted in her desire to create space for cross-cultural dialogue and she sees creating such spaces as an outlet for political and social activism.
Harris's creative process begins with research and writing. She draws from scholarly research, interviews, local history, and her family archives to ground her work in lived experiences. From there, Harris uses the camera (in studio or on the street) to compose the foundational images of the work on film. Finally, she scans these images into her digital studio where they are combined with hand-drawn illustration and digital collage.
Harris's most recent body of work, Celestial Bodies, is inspired by her experience as a "third culture kid." Harris spent a significant chunk of her developmental years living outside the United States—primarily in Italy and Germany. This surreal experience permanently shifted her perception of belonging. Othered by race, language, culture, and nationality, she was drawn to mythology. Throughout history, mythology has served humankind’s need to understand nature, society, and the environment. Through myth-making Harris has been able to tap into a sense of belonging that extends from a connection to universal cultural concerns and narratives. Celestial Bodies also draws influence from works by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Lorna Simpson, Frida Kahlo, and Gustav Klimt.
Born in Indianapolis, IN, but raised traveling the world as the child of a military officer, Carla Jay Harris’s social and artistic development was impacted tremendously by the geopolitical and natural environments she encountered. She fervently believes that physical and physiological space has a fundamental, lasting impact on personal identity. While the environment around us is constantly evolving, photography has the power to capture a place or a moment—transforming a flicker in time into a lasting, appreciable statement. Harris’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the California African American Museum, CA; the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, CA; the Southern, Charleston, SC; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; and the Museum of Fine Arts Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. She has been the beneficiary of several grants and fellowships, including the Hoyt Scholarship, Resnick Fellowship, and a grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance. Harris completed undergraduate coursework at the School of Visual Arts in New York, received her Bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of Virginia, and her MFA from UCLA in 2015. She lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.