Staff at the Harvard Art Museums share a passion for art. We work together to care for the museums’ collections and to advance knowledge about and appreciation of art and art museums through research, teaching, professional training, and public education. While our daily tasks differ greatly, from processing memberships to re-creating 14th-century frames, all museums staff bring an amazing amount of creativity to their work. For some, this extends to what they do off the clock as well.
Ansis Purins, a freelance illustrator who works in our mailroom, received a Xeric award for the second installment of his comic series Zombre. The protagonist of Zombre is a friendly zombie that Purins describes as “Yogi Bear meets Night of the Living Dead.” Purins’s illustrations take a more naturalistic line, a style that he’s developed through his encounters with works at the museums, such as those by Albert Bierstadt. For Purins, being surrounded by phenomenal art is one of the many perks of working here.
There’s a reason why Jill Comer, exhibit assistant-specialist, is so skilled at sculpting mounts for displaying the museums’ collections: she’s a trained sculptor, who has spent years honing her techniques. “Sculpture and mount-making go hand in hand,” said Comer. “It’s all about craft.” Using materials that include concrete and wood, she describes her mixed-media sculptures as “semi-nonfunctional objects that appear as though they have a purpose.” Inspired by one of her other talents—playing the ukulele—Comer makes imaginative musical instruments. One such instrument, featured recently in our Staff Art Show, was constructed with a recycled tin can, stretched strings, and guitar tuner.
As the museums’ senior conservation scientist, Narayan Khandekar is often trying to understand how objects are made. While Khandekar’s training as a chemist and conservator certainly plays a role in analyzing an object’s materiality, so does his own art making. Khandekar creates dioramas that depict sections of urban landscapes, settings that are often just outside major institutions, such as the Tate Modern in London and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He makes the dioramas from many different materials, such as plaster of paris, carborundum, oil and acrylic paints, sifted dirt and dried foliage (usually from the actual location), styrene, and a variety of metals. “When you make things yourself, you start to recognize how and why something was done,” Khandekar said. “Making art is invaluable in being able to understand the working practice of others.”