FSU College of Fine Arts thanks alumnus Glenn Harper for his generous donation of books to the Art & Design Library, located in William Johnston Building on Landis Green.
One of my goals before retiring was to find the right home for several book collections related to my career in art criticism and magazine editing. I hope it will be a resource for students of contemporary art history.
His collection of 190 books has been designated to the Department of Art History and contains books on art criticism and books by art critics. These are mostly specialized on visual art, sculpture, architecture, performance theory, postmodern theory, among others branches of art. Most of the books were written between the 50’s and the 90’s, but some are from as early as 1927 and as late as 2014.
Harper has had the opportunity to know a good number of authors from his collection including Robert Morgan and the late Arlene Raven. Lucy Lippard, an internationally known writer who has been an important critic of American art since the 1960’s and whose books are included in the collection, has written articles for him several times over the years at Sculpture magazine and Art Papers. Harper has also met John Grande, a critic in Montreal whose specialties are environmental art and Canadian art. “He has written a number of articles for me over the years,” Harper said. “In both those areas of interest”.
Glenn Harper earned a PhD in the interdisciplinary Humanities program at Florida State University, focusing on literature, art, and phenomenology. He has worked as editor of Sculpture magazine for 20 years, and was formerly editor of Art Papers. He has written for newspapers and journals including Aperture, Artforum, Public Art Review, Afterimage, and Exit Express, and his articles have been included in a number of books on individual artists as well as in anthologies, including The Next Thing, Quando è scultura, and Viewing the Terrain: Sculpture and Landscape.
He is the editor of Interventions and Provocations: Conversations on Art, Culture, and Resistance and co-editor of A Sculpture Reader: Contemporary Sculpture Since 1980, Conversations on Sculpture; Landscapes for Art: Contemporary Sculpture Parks; The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency, and Artists Reclaim the Commons. He has also started working as a “standardized patient” in several medical schools, acting as a patient in encounters that are intended to help train future physicians in their clinical skills.
What did you learn at Florida State University to get where you are today? Or were there any favorite ‘learning experiences’ from FSU you might like to share?
My graduate school experience at FSU was very important for me at the beginning and throughout my career as an editor and writer. Two professors, in particular, were key figures for me. First, Dr. John Priest, who was my dissertation advisor and director of the Humanities PhD program, introduced me to what has been ever since my philosophical perspective, based on phenomenology and the sociology of knowledge-areas in which Dr. Priest was very engaged. The other one was Dr. Fred Licht, who provided for me a new engagement with art history and with visual art as a field of study as well as an enriching experience. In fact, my wife and I had the honor and pleasure to work for Dr. Licht when we were counsellors in the FSU International Program in Florence. The opportunity to work and study in Florence was in itself a foundational experience for me, another debt I owe to FSU. I also particularly remember Dr. Bill Swain of the Religion Department and Dr. Jerry Stern of the English Department, both of whom broadened my perspective and my horizons considerably.
Have you ever worked with any other alumni?
Yes, among them the artist Ruth Dusseault, Maureen Zaremba (the current Curator of Education at the Ringling Museum), and a fellow alumna of the FSU International Program, Mary Jane Jacob. And of course my wife, Patrice McDermott, is also an FSU alumna.
What has been your favorite writing experience?
One of my favorite writing experiences would probably be writing an essay on “When is sculpture,” which I presented at a conference with that same title in Venice a few years ago. The essay was published (in Italian translation) in the book Quando è scultura (I think I sound much better in Italian translation).
I also had the most fun working on a satirical piece about art criticism (A Voyage Around Art Criticism) for Art Papers (biographical, professional, and critical), writing a memoir about growing up in a flower shop for an artist’s book by Heide Hatry, and writing a manifesto for contemporary artists some years ago for the National Association of Artists’ Organizations. ‘Every review or essay I’ve done about an artist or an exhibition has had substantial rewards (despite the difficulty of getting the first words down on a blank page), in terms of confronting the work itself and finding a way to translate the experience into another (verbal rather than visual) medium.
What is your favorite part about being an editor or about writing in general?
Editing a magazine involves a lot of detail work, a lot of scheduling (sometimes it seems more like juggling), and a lot of close reading. But the process of putting together an issue is very rewarding, something like curating a new exhibition every month. And if you’re not totally happy with the result, there’s another chance to get it right, right away.
The best part of writing in the visual arts is the chance to interact directly with artists and their work. I’ve had the chance to interview a lot of interesting artists, from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Kathy Acker to Xu Bing. These days, a lot of my writing has shifted away from the visual arts: I’m currently reviewing crime fiction for the Los Angeles Review of Books. But I still write about sculpture occasionally, when the right opportunity arises.