DANNA BURNS HARVEY, CLASS OF 1960, ARTIST
Danna Ruth Harvey, Denison High Class of 1960, is making a name for her in the art world.
She grew up in Denison, graduated from DHS as did her husband, Jerry, and three of her four children, then began her quest for higher education before discovering a talent for painting her own style of pictures.
Danna, who now lives in Houston, graduated in September from Johnson State College in Vermont with a Master of Fine Arts degree and already has at least 17 solo and 13 group exhibitions under her belt.
Danna and her family were living in Denison in the late 1980s. She had never even been inside an art gallery and had not been exposed to art at that time. Her mother, Ruth Burns, loved doing projects and crafts so she grew up sewing and making things. Thus she did have exposure to the asthetic, but not in a formal way.
In about 1986 her oldest son, Benjamin, was attending Austin College and went on a class trip to Washington D.C., where he visited the National Gallery for the Arts among other treasure sites. He came home raving about. That Christmas Danna and Jerry loaded up the four children and went to Washington to visit the Gallery and other museums.
"I was amazed, totally transformed," Danna said recently, adding, "I could not get over the sights."
She came home and started trying to draw on her own. She said she couldn’t stop. "I was naďve enough to think I could do it so I kept working." Before long she was frustrated and sought help. She found it with a woman in Sherman who had studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and who took her on as a drawing student.
Soon after, Jerry was transferred to Houston, where he is a chemical engineer with W.R. Grace Co. A very determined Danna took her portfolio of drawings to the Glassell School of Art there. "I was scared to death," she said. But she was accepted. She completed the program and said she received a wonderful foundation that gave her confidence to go on to the University of Houston, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a major in Painting and minor in Art History.
She actually started to college the summer after graduating from high school in 1960, but only earned a few credits. Then in the 1980s she started working on a degree plan and has been going to school ever since. After graduating from the U of H she became heavily involved in painting and exhibiting. The she began work on her Master’s degree.
Danna’s unique style is expressed the way we experience time versus the way we’ve constructed it with clocks and other tangible means, she explained. She always worked with the idea that time, although invisible, still can be seen changing, sometimes slowly and sometimes more quickly. The concept of time passing has always been fascinating to Danna and through her paintings she is able to express her deepest thoughts about time. She uses oil paints, wax and threads to reference real and imagined experiences of time and other times.
She began as a figurative painter in watercolor, collage and oil mediums and while working on a project for a Houston gallery, she inadvertently placed a piece of kitchen waxed paper over several landscape photographs. She liked the way the wax film changed and how she felt when she looked at the landscape. She suspends the oil pigment in a wax medium as she paints then "entombs" the complete painting in multiple layers of wax as a finishing procedure.
While the process may sound complicated and deep to some of us, her work is wonderful and the forms in the pictures are easily recognizable as views of nature. "They never represent actual geographical locations and sometimes are distilled to near abstraction," Danna said.
Next to her husband, Jerry, and her four children, probably the person most proud of Danna and what she has accomplished in the art world is her sister, Shirley Burns Wright of Richardson. Shirley never tires of singing Danna’s praises.
Husband Jerry gets totally involved in helping Danna and takes care of ordering materials and making sure all supplies are organized and on hand. He also gets her where she needs to be, which Danna said is so important now that she sometimes gets so involved in her work that she forgets where she is supposed to be.
"I used to say that my studio was in my home," Danna said, "but now I have to say home is in the studio.".
Danna’s work is among collections of BMC Software in Boston, and San Jose, CA, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Enron, Reliant Energy and Chubb Insurance in Houston, Cash America International in Fort Worth and Fidelity Investment in Boston.
Life has changed for Danna. The time she expresses in her work has progressed for her from life as a student in Denison to a wife and mother, then grandmother, through her quest for an education and discovering a hidden talent she didn’t know existed until the time came for her to express it.
Time has taken her family on a path that is allowing her to express her thoughts in a pleasing manner that is attracting art lovers across the country. – Donna Hunt