Remembering Jim Harrison with his words
Harrison died Saturday at age 80 in the place that he made famous, the studio in the middle of Denmark at what is officially known as Harrison Crossroad (the intersection of U.S. Highways 321 and 78).
He leaves behind a great legacy of art from a career that easily might never have been. Harrison was a successful coach before taking one of life’s big chances and pursuing his passion that was born as a young man in painting a Coca-Cola sign on McCartha’s Hardware in Denmark.
The rest is, shall we say, history.
Amid the many words of tribute to Harrison in these waning days of June, we turn back to June 2015 and an article penned by Harrison for South Carolina Farmer, a publication of the S.C. Farm Bureau Federation.
As he laments the loss of the country stores that were an inspiration to him, his reflections offer insight about the artist and speak to why the works he leaves behind will tell stories about times past for generations to come.
“I love country stores. Not only are they rich with emotional associations, they are also an essential part of our past especially when it comes to the farming life. A search for the real American entrepreneurial spirit must not begin in the contemporary metropolitan offices of our giant corporations. To learn of the development of the mercantile system in this country, one must pause, turn around and take a backward look.”
“For more than half a century, I have had a love affair with old buildings, old things and old ways. In today’s America, there is a disturbing school of thought propounding the idea that something new is better, more exciting and more useful. ‘Throw it away and get a new one’ is the constant cry of this group, who seem unwilling to take the time to glance backward and evaluate. As we look to our rural and agricultural past, the role of the country store cannot be ignored.”
“In my own painting and writing, I draw a lot from the memories I accumulated as a boy. If I can capture the mood of a moment from the past, then I feel successful. We can’t return to the old ways because we ourselves have changed too much. Yet, I sincerely try to put meaning into my work in hopes it has some historical value. With my paintbrush and pen, I sometimes feel like I’m just one step in front of the wrecking ball. And for more than half a century, I have had a love affair with old buildings, old things and old ways. Preserving them in at least some small way is important to me.”
“Standing in the doorway, you will be caught with one foot in the past and one pointing to the future. Memory will serve you well at the moment, but time must move on and in its ruthless way leave behind much that was good. Never again will the wood stove seem so warm. Never again will the porch seem so shady. And never again will the candy taste so sweet.”