"An Attempt to Burn John Harris"; 2016, Oil on Canvas, 36 inches(91.44 cm.) in height by 72 inches(182.88 cm.) in width.
Companion Guide Book

HarrisProject is a multi-media experience.

To fully experience this project, listen to the audiobook while viewing the painting and following along with the illustrated companion book.

Buy a copy of the Artist's Research companion guide in eBook, Audible (narrated by the US Open's Andy Taylor) and hardcopy on Amazon, or on Google Play Books for $4.99.

HarrisProject Research companion book available at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, PA USA, Amazon.com and on Google Play Books for $4.99.
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Audiobook Narrator, Voice of the US Open, Andy Taylor (right).
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Purchase a Signed Print

Signed artist reproductions of the painting are available for purchase via the PayPal button below, or in the Sales Gallery at the Art Association of Harrisburg.

Project Completed February, 2016
Unveiling HBG City Government Center, February 2016
WHBG20 Interview
YouTube video of J.Ed Sharp, who posed as his greatest grandfather for John Harris Project visiting from Canada with his family, greeted by the Mayor of Harrisburg and interviewed on camera.
"An Attempt to Burn John Harris" showing @ City Hall, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA with the Artist Bryan Thomas Molloy, 3/31/2016.
mayor and harris print
Mayor of Harrisburg Eric Papenfuse showing an original lithograph of the story of John Harris hanging in the Mayor's Office in Harrisburg City Government Center.
harris descendants with mayor papenfuse
Sharp family, descendants of the Founder of Harrisburg, John Harris with Mayor of Harrisburg, Eric Papenfuse with John Harris' original portable writing desk.
ed with study
Descendant of Harrisburg's Founder John Harris, Ed Sharp, visiting from Toronto, Canada with the study of him as Harris.
me with mayor
Artist Bryan Molloy with Mayor Papenfuse
HarrisProject unveiling at HBG City Government Center, February 2016. J.Ed Sharp, who posed as his greatest grandfather John Harris Sr. for John Harris Project is shown here visiting from Canada with his family being greeted by the Mayor of Harrisburg, Eric Papenfuse, and interviewed on camera.
Exhibition of:
Showing August 3rd in the Burg and September Gallery Walk 2016 at Historic Harrisburg Association, 1230 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17102 Phone: (717) 233-4646.
Exhibition June-July Art Association of Harrisburg 2016 Art Student Annual Exhibition
Harris showing at the Art Association of Harrisburg.
Showing May 15, 2017 through June 25, 2017 in the East Wing Rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, and the first week of July for July 4th in the Main Rotunda.
PA State Capitol Showing July 4th
Showing @ PA State Capitol July 4th, Main Rotunda.
capitol blondes
Showing @ PA State Capitol July 4th, Main Rotunda.
east wing 1
Showing @ PA State Capitol July 4th, East Wing Rotunda.
east wing 2
Showing @ PA State Capitol July 4th, East Wing Rotunda.
attempt litho
1840s Lithograph of 'An Attempt to Burn John Harris' by William S. Reeder (HBG Mayor's Office).
Detail Views of the Finished Work

This painting is large and heavily varnished. It is painted in very thin, transparent layers and as a result no photography can truly ever capture the depth, iridescence, and luminosity of it. The detail is very fine and the brushwork delicate and varied. In certain light, optical effects of depth due to the transparencies make the figures come alive, the stars twinkle, and the structures appear to recede and advance.

Artist Description: 2012

"This will be the first major, in depth, and quite serious undertaking of my career; having, after numerous traumatic and scarring life events, for the past 5 years achieved some measure of stability in the community of Harrisburg. The most recent event being the passing of my father (2009), who on his deathbed suggested that I "paint Indians… something with Indians."

Tom Molloy, Hampton, VA
Tom Molloy, Hampton, VA

"I had been thinking the same thing after a tour of the most beautiful Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, I had the murals of the history of PA in my mind. To mark an important occasion, as a memorial both to my father and the founders of this country, I picked up what was before me. As I work in the first Governor's residence in PA, now owned by the 80 year-old non-profit Art Association of Harrisburg, this history and opportunity became obvious; it is physically near the point at which John Harris' story allegedly took place, on the Susquehanna River. The importance of this subject, as well as my own constant effort and involvement with the community of Harrisburg to promote my career and work, will surely advance my career and exposure. I conducted extensive research into many aspects of the structure of the 18th century world in a successful attempt to understand and identify stylistic minutiae of dress and behavior of European and Native peoples in the Colonial Period. I have been in contact with many organizations such as the Smithsonian and various universities, as well as the York Museum Trust in England, who have been very helpful in donating their time and expertise at no cost. The Yorkshire Museum also requested a copy of this research to retain in their archives."

Rescuing Native Chief finished
Rescuing Native Chief finished
Orion finished
Orion and the Pleides Complete
Orion In progress
Orion In progress

A showing of the finished work is scheduled through the Art Association of Harrisburg in Harrisburg City Hall for the spring of 2016.

Stars and stellar formations like the Pleides and the Orion Nebulae added as the background is built up. Simultaneously, development on figures and other elements continues.

In progress: stars
In progress: Orion constellation
In progress: Color glazing begun in underpainting.
In progress
In progress
In progress
In progress
In progress: Underpainting started with classical renaissance brown.
In progress: Underpainting started with classical renaissance brown.
In progress: Underpainting started with classical renaissance brown. I'm using my method, adopted from Sargent, of drawing with the brush straight onto the canvas.
'Attempt' rough digital collage 2.0

Digital presentation: Revised and updated Harris Research and website as part of final review before project execution. Added a section expanding on explanation of choice of color red and prime focal structure of the cloak worn by the rescuing Native. Also added many new images throughout, and various other corrections and additions.

Digital Collage: Combined all reference photos of model shoots and costumes with photographs of the riverbank and river in fall foiliage at sunset into a digital collage to solidify composition, color balance and lighting; sizing and exact placement needs adjustment. After my brief hiatus caused by health issues I had developed by learning and assimilating into the local customs: eating their food, observing and respecting their traditions and habits, trusting their doctors and other professionals; I am now recovering nicely from a near-death situation and hospitalization, wherein I made the mistake of being drugged out of my mind and allowed my phone, I made an attempt to visit the bathroom when my IV caught on the bed, I pressed the nurse-call-button immediately, and while I waited for a long enough period of time to spray blood all over the bathroom before taping up the wound myself and getting dressed, attempting to leave and making it all the way to the front desk in the time it took the nurse to never arrive. During this time period, I was fascinated by the blood-splatter because I enjoy shows such as CSI, and took a picture and posted it to my personal page on facebook for personal record and curiosities sake (I was very high on Aderol). This stirred the hospitals native legal forces to determine that I was attempting suicide, as the nurses made a point of mentioning facebook to explain their right to ignore my rights and proceeded to demand that I volunteer, against threats of some other unmentioned form of coersion, to be locked in the psych-ward for another week against my will and protests- to the tune of $8000.00- for which they call for daily (I am an artist and obviously cannot afford health insurance)! I certainly was not suicidal (overweight and overmedicated yes)! But it was truly the icing on the cake to my experience and study of this subject. I felt as if I was attended to by fear-struck Witch-Doctors attempting to prove my fault in allowing their local medical professionals to lead me to death by over-prescribing seratonin-based anti-axiety medications. I feel that I have gleaned a deep, personal understanding of what the Natives were subject to in this region (and have started a vegetable-protein liquid-diet), from behavioral tendencies still present in this community- a horrifically abusive and disrespectful military-style national center for the institutional assimilation of Natives and African-Americans, was nearby in Carlisle, PA.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School
Credit: Library of Congress
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the most famous off-reservation boarding school in America. Drawing Native students from around the country, the government-run school offered a curriculum steeped in manual and vocational training. The uniforms and division of ranks into boys and girls reflect the School's emphasis on military-style discipline and organization.
Lithograph of 'An Attempt to Burn John Harris' one of several versions.
intoxicated promo

"After I studied Bryan's Harris painting, a spirit came to me, and it was Harris. He said 'Al, you do a great job with Pennsylvania Magazine, but when are you going to do a cover story on me?'"

-Al Holliday, publisher Pennsylvania Magazine

true history promo

“Bryan Molloy’s John Harris Project is an extensively-researched, beautifully-conceived work of artistic, historical, and literary significance.”

-Carrie Wissler-Thomas: Director, Art Association of Harrisburg

corruption promo

"I read to the part about the Native Americans but couldn't read any further- so sad!"

-Tracey Edgerly Meloni: Writer, Harrisburg Magazine, various other publications; former Political Speechwriter in Boston during Ted Kennedy era; Stepmother of Christopher Meloni (Actor, Law&Order:SVU, 42, Superman, HAPPY!, etc.)

alcohol promo

"Wow, your work is very impressive. I didn't know all that about John Harris."

-WITF personality and PR specialist Nell McCormack Abom

trusworthiness promo

"A very interesting and useful compilation of materials and commentary on John Harris."

-Premiere Harrisburg Historian and Penn State University Professor, Michael Barton

orion promo

Research, contacting museums and writing bit by bit (2009-2015).

attempt composition 1.0
'Attempt' rough digital collage 1.0

Oil sketches of Individual figural components: Started working through oil studies which is the last step involving physical prepwork before working directly on the eight-foot-wide by four-foot-tall (I frog-taped a foot off all around for the finished size) canvas I have bolted to the wall and prepped ready (2012).

Harris canvas
Harris canvas
Iroquois study; oil on canvas, 2012, 11" x 14".
Iroquois study; oil on canvas, 2012, 10" x 10".
Susquehannok rescuing Chief; oil on canvas, 2015, 22" x 28".
J.Ed Sharp study; oil on canvas, 2012, 8" x 10".

Rescuing Native PhotoShoot: Former Broadway professional Shaka Hudson modeled as all three rescuing Susquehannok Natives. With the river as the backdrop one fall evening he donned a wig and not, a cloak and not- while pretending to pull a non-existant canoe onshore. He was brilliant! I think the Mexican guys fishing in the four-foot-deep warm August water for worm-ridden minnows(?) thought so too but I can't be sure. The Harris myth has two versions: one where the rescuer is an African-American slave named Hercules; the other, more popular version has the rescuers as the neighboring tribe of unknown tribal association. I have combined the two versions and have an African-American who is 1/4 Native from Harrisburg posing as all three Susquehannok rescuers. This repetition also serves to imitate a historical convention of homogenizing individual features as a form of classical idealization.

Susquehannok model shoot
Susquehannok model shoot
Susquehannok model shoot
Susquehannok model shoot
Susquehannok model shoot
Susquehannok model shoot

Bearclaw necklace and Costume-making:
I've had the cloak, shirt, pants and cravat made. I also made a bear-claw and feather necklace with some replica resin bear claws of two different sizes.

Bearclaw necklace
Linen shirt and cravat
Linen shirt and cravat
Linen shirt and cravat
Linen shirt and cravat
Linen shirt and cravat
Linen shirt and cravat

Linens: bought some official period linen fabrics made from the original flax from W.M.Booth Draper. A shirt is being made in period style. I also bought some very fine linen for a cravat, or neckchief, the precursor to our modern tie. It is from the Eastern European Czech Region and is supposedly the finest linen ever made- both in the 1700s and to this day. It is much finer thread-count and far softer than cotton.

Cloak: I have commissioned a red wool cloak from local Harrisburg Tailor, Bernard Ballard, for the Rescuing Indian Chief to wear. I found the wool online from a farm in New Hampshire called Dorr Mill. It is very thick and has an excellent napp so that the surface of the fabric obscured the hand-woven, irregular loom weave pattern. I ordered samples from the company that has made the well-known British Red-Coat fabric and other royal military fabrics like the classic Navy Melton wool of peacoat fame, Abimelech Hainsworth, and many other historic fabric makers and none compared to the historical records of a thick, waterproof, scraped and shrunk wool fabric used in that day. Most shown clearly the loose, insanely regular, machined weave of very lightweight and flimsy character. I'm sure it looks fantastic billowing on camera in the wind of the Scottish Highlands, but for this project I wanted to communicate the feel of the weight of that material through the still bulk of the look of it, so that the viewer could get a sense of the history and feel it for themselves; hoping in a way that the younger generation might see themselves as the rescuing hero, carrying the weight of that cloak with strength to spare, striding in to save Harrisburg's founder, and the city in need, and the very country in fact. Dorr Mill (dorrmillstore.com) grows and shears and weaves and sells its own yarn and wool, and happened to make a heavy fabric closer to the need, that put all of the other "hollywood authentic reenactment" sellers to shame. It is beautiful.

Wool cloak

Composition: Worked on a sketch of compositional formula. It is meant to emulate classical academic compositional models of historical genre paintings. Movement, directional flow, as well as modern scientific observational theories are employed. Eye movement patterns and stereotypical categorical tendencies, including first noticed, and the cross pattern are implemented. The general pattern for this work is a modification of the traditional and modern into an entirely new concept and method.

Composition sketch

Trading post photos:Took some photos of Harris reconstruction @ City Island near the ballpark.

Harris trading post
Harris trading post
Harris trading post

Did some sketches of Iroquois from photo shoot.

Iroquois sketch; graphite on paper, 2011, 5" x 7".
Iroquois sketch; graphite on paper, 2011, 5" x 7".

Worked up a digital composite sketch of Harris with Ed Sharp in costume.

J Ed Sharp digital sketch

Did some graphite sketches of J. Edward Sharp.

J Ed Sharp sketch; graphite on paper, 2011, 5" x 7".
J Ed Sharp sketch; graphite on paper, 2011, 5" x 7".

Iroquois photo shoot: Took photos of Todd Geiger and Philip A Moore dressed as Iroquois agressors. Todd Geiger has Native blood and is a local artist from Hummelstown. Philip is autistic and is a writer and photographer from Oregon, currently working as a janitor in the Federal Courthouse in downtown Harrisburg.

Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot
Iroquois photo shoot

John Harris model: A descendant of John Harris and the Harris family has agreed to model as John Harris. J. Edward Sharp is from the branch extending from Harris' grandson, Robert Harris, who moved his family to Canada and followed in his grandfather's footsteps to found cities and industry in the Canadian colonial frontier. Mr. Sharp is the very image of his grandestfather and after all these years one can see and imagine the frontiersman and Native American liason in every detail of his visage. From the Native-esque sharp triangular goatee upon his chin, to the ring in his ear, Mr. Sharp has closely preserved the Harris bloodline. It is an honor and a priviledge to work with him. His likeness and lineage will surely lend authenticity and weight to the memory and legend of John Harris Senior. Harris was Welsh, grew up in York, England, then moved to Philly before he moved to the river. I still can't figure out where the "burg" came from or how it applies to a predominantly Scotts-Irish and Black (African-American) population of the city!!!

J Ed Sharp photo

Study of the canoe:The first is an actual canoe from India that is still in use in the 21st century (photo by my brother Seth Molloy). It is an interesting practical structural analysis of the functionality of the canoe form.

Indian canoe; oil on canvas, 2012, 8" x 8".
Photo by Seth Molloy

Iroquois hunting pattern study: My theories surround regional and territorial identifiers less than mere intimidational or garrish and random decorative patterns. Native American culture according to my research and general knowledge is a primarily functionally biased anarchical and organic societal structure; a confidently natural and organic expression of trust in the earth's structural and compositional deference. Little in the seemingly gaudy and intensly colorful and ornate Native American decorative arts is not significant communication; each pattern and structure is akin to a specific word. Much of the Native American philosophy of verbal language was reserved for the all-important 'life song' of the individual, therefore, their lack of dependence on verbal language as an identifier leaves open the distinct likelihood that each individual's communicative efforts was a deeply interpretive, individual and creative expression dependant on the individual's own capability and responsibility to understand and guess how his peers and even geographically distant foreign others would or might interpret and judge those communicative efforts; efforts to be perceived as an effective relay of surely life-or-death deciding information. This task and crucial talent was exposed and tested in common hunting grounds where vastly separated tribesmen would congregate, making every effort to go unseen by other tribes, but in the unfortunate event of a clash and competition those individual tribesmen would need to instantly coagulate in a unified visual first assault. This was accomplished by the aforementioned regional identifiers in the decorative hunting patterns. Mud and animal parts were used for protection from elements and good health and hygene. These clothing elements were adjusted visually through choice of color and structuring of pattern to identify these instant tribal identifiers. The theory presented within these Iroquois hunting patterns depends on the certain detailed knowledge of the regional and migratory habits of song, ground and predatory birds or foul within each tribe as a territorial 'coat-tail' which each tribe across the continent would use to communicate both destination to tribal elders in a glance, but also direction and intended path of attack and retreat to those others in the common ground; specifically in this case, the Ohio River Valley in the early 18th century. These tribes would use the patterns of the birds roosting in their territory to tell others where they originated from; much like professional sports teams' uniform design and mascot designations of today; being primarily a regional territorial identifier; and where they each were going, as well as what they were hunting. For example, fishermen on the coast would likely don some combined decorative pattern seen worn by local sandpipers or waterbirds. Likewise, inland hunters donned the patterns of those local inland birds from their local habitat, combined with individual creative twists. The hunter in this rough sketch wears a combo-pattern derived from regional groundbirds and sparrows whose roost is also the Iroquois home. The migratory habits of these birds place their winter home in the Ohio River Valley, also the contest destination for the hunter. The huntsman also wears a feathered and beaded rain-coat or cape. This cape is composed of the colors worn by a combination of predatory and migratory birds who migrate through and hunt in the Ohio River Valley. All groups who were in any territorial conquest mode of agression against others in that hunting ground may have worn such a communicative, functional, and beautiful garment. At this point in time, various fractionate elements in New York and Quebec had unified as the Iroquios Nation. These Iroquois had for thousands of years prior, fought for primary status in that popular hunting valley and recently formed an alliance with the New World Conquerers. Because of this alliance, they may have believed, and most likely celebrated and communicated in the traditional way, their assumed victory and dominance over the old ways and traditionally contested territory.

Iroquois hunting costume theory sketch