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Charley Harper sculpture ready for Springfield Township debut

Charley Harper's iconic cardinal on blocks in a cube sculpture
Tana Weingartner
The sculpture by artist Micah Landers is titled "The Many Sides of Charley Harper," and incorporates four Charley Harper artworks in three-dimensional form.

Springfield Township's first-ever sculpture is installed and ready to be formally dedicated Saturday. It celebrates the work of longtime township resident and modernist artist, Charley Harper.

Titled "The Many Sides of Charley Harper," the sculpture was created by another local artist, Micah Landers, incorporating four of Harper's artworks selected by popular vote.

"It's very modern," Landers explains. "It's a series of cubes that are geometrically aligned so that you can see every cube from every side, from four different angles. If you stand viewing it from the northwest, you can see a panel side from of every cube, so that they lay out like a canvas. Then if you go to the northeast, you see a different canvas of the different side of all the cubes, but every cube is visible from every corner."

The four Harper works selected by the public are "Ladybug," the deer featured in Animals in America's National Parks children's activity book, "Cardinal Closeup" and the "Cool Carnivore" tiger.

"It's kind of an optical illusion to some degree," Landers explains, noting he was pleased with the images the public picked. "I wanted for there to be somewhat simple images because some of Charley's artwork has a lot of complexity and detail to it, even if it is simple shapes. I think they picked just the right pieces because they all translate really, really well."

Harper Sculpture (11).jpg
Tana Weingartner
Early in the week ahead of the dedication, landscaping crews worked to install the grounds around the art installation.

Landers says creating the concept was a fun challenge because Harper's modernist style was intentionally two-dimensional.

The installation is on the southeast corner of the intersection of Winton and Galbraith roads — one of the busiest intersections in the county, according to Kimberlee Flamm, executive director of ArtsConnect, a non-profit partnership with the township which provides arts programing and experiences. She adds the township is slowly trying to identify as an arts community.

"This is a placemaking project for us," Flamm explains. "Winton and Galbraith is one of the heaviest traveled intersections in Hamilton County. It's unusual to put a sculpture in a place that is traveling so fast in so many different directions. I do think it will make people slow down, take attention, and also realize and recognize that they are in Springfield Township when they see this sculpture."

The project is funded by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council and a Neighborhood Enhancement Grant by the Springfield Township Community Improvement Corporation.

Harper lived in Springfield Township with his family for nearly 50 years. His son, Brett Harper, is expected to be part of a dedication ceremony Saturday, Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m.

"The Charley Harper family has been so generous with his artwork, and sharing it with our community without really any strings attached. It's a nice legacy project for us," Flamm says.

tiger face
Tana Weingartner

About Charley Harper

If you've lived in Greater Cincinnati for any length of time, you've probably come across Harper's work. It's easily recognizable for its modern, highly stylized graphic feel and use of bright colors.

"Wildlife art has been dominated by realism, but I have chosen to do it differently because I think flat, hard-edge and simple," Harper is quoted as saying.

His style was known as "minimal realism."

"When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see feathers, fur, scapulars or tail coverts — none of that. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures."

Born in West Virginia, Harper graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and would later teach there for many years. His works can be seen all around Greater Cincinnati in public art installations, and in designs for all kinds of organizations including the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Great Parks of Hamilton County among many others. He also created works for national groups like the National Park Service and its various parks.

He and his wife, Edie, also an artist, lived in Finneytown in the mid-century modern home they built in 1958. Their house, tucked amongst the trees, included a large-scale exterior painting of one of his famous creations — a lady bug. Charley Harper died in 2007, followed by Edie Harper a few years later in 2010.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.