Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

In conversation: a poetics of empathy: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison.

Douglas, Anne; Fremantle, Christopher


Anne Douglas


Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison are pioneers in the creative development of art and ecology. It was Helen who read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, a critical influence in their decision in the early 1970s to do no work that did not in some way benefit the ecosystem. This commitment became a compass throughout their lives as artists, shaping a practice unique in its focus and complexity. Helen was an English Major with a Masters in Psychology who had worked in education extensively and to a senior level before becoming a full-time artist and Professor at the University of California San Diego. Living in New York in the early 1960s she had also been the first New York Coordinator of the Women's Strike for Peace. Newton, in contrast, had been apprenticed to the sculptor Michael Lanz from a very young age, and trained in figuration. He graduated from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1952 and thereafter pursued a career as a sculptor. He took his MFA at Yale (1963-65) alongside Chuck Close and Richard Serra, and, Helen helped him learn Joseph Albers' color theory. He went on to be one of the founding members of the new Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego CA where they both later became Professors Emeriti.


DOUGLAS, A. and FREMANTLE, C. 2022. In conversation: a poetics of empathy: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. Women eco artists dialog magazine [online], 13: the art of empathy. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 13, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 2, 2022
Publication Date Nov 30, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 20, 2022
Journal Women eco artists dialog magazine
Publisher Women Eco Artists Dialog
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Issue 13
Keywords Art and the environment; Artists and society; Society and the environment
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information An earlier version of this article was published in the form of an obituary for Helen Mayer Harrison in 2018, on


You might also like

Downloadable Citations