Grant Recipients Dorothea Tanning Award Music/Sound 2021

Lisa E. Harris

A portrait of Lisa E. Harris with cropped dark-auburn hair wearing a mock neck top sewn of white pearls.
Photo by Sonia Malfa.
  • 2021 Dorothea Tanning Award
  • Music/Sound
  • Interdisciplinary Artist, Composer, Vocalist
  • Born 1981, Houston, TX
  • Lives in Houston, TX
  • Additional Information

I will never forget the electricity that ran through my body, the mix of tears of joy, relief, and utter amazement that forced me to pull my car over on the highway and take it all in. I had no idea how the news of my award was about to affect me in the coming year, but what I did know in those last few moments of 2020, was that I was being seen and I was being heard.

- Lisa E. Harris, December 17, 2021

Artist Statement

I am a visiting artist. Always in transit, asking how do we home? How do we value? I am a professional visiting artist, simultaneously a guest as well as a host. I am still very rooted to my home, family, and place of origin, and I consider that a privilege. Carrying home with me, visiting a space and hoping that we both are changed for the better by the time I move on. I am a composer, performer, and filmmaker. I enjoy connecting to Source energy and translating varied information into accessible, public reach for the larger benefit of humanity. Today, I specialize in creating original theories involving experimentations using a range of transformative media such as composition, vocal and human performance, theremin performance, choreography, photography, text, poetry, video, food, water, gravity, textiles, and feng shui. My creative process considers the energetic relationships between body, spirit, land, and space. I am focused on healing environments. I believe in fun, freedom, and feeling good. I hope my work can inspire deep breathing.

- December 2020


Lisa E. Harris (Li/Li’s) is an independent and interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, creative soprano, performer, composer, improvisor, writer, singer/songwriter, and educator. Harris’s work resists genre classification as Li focuses on the energetic relationships between body, land, spirit, and place. Using voice, theremin, movement, improvisation, meditation, and new media to explore spatial awareness, relationalism, intuition, panoptic surveillance, and personification, Li maintains a focused concentration on healing in performance and living.

Harris’s EarthSeed (FPE Records, 2020) is a live concert album that is based on the writings of Octavia Butler and responds to the chaotic and horrific nature of our times. The album is composed by Harris and Nicole Mitchell. Harris is featured on the GRAMMY-nominated album ALL RISE (Blue Note Records, 2014) with Jason Moran and Meshell N’degeocello, and Li is the lead singer with Jason Moran's Fats Waller Dance Party.

Li is the founding director of Studio Enertia, an arts collective and production company that created Cry of the Third Eye (2020)a ten-year durational work that archives the effects of gentrification on the Third Ward in Houston, TX. Harris is the creator and curator of the Free Time Flow Festival at MacGregor Park, Houston, TX (2018) which celebrates the intersections of basketball, electro-acoustic music, and improvisational expression. Li also created and curated Pauline Oliveros Day at Discovery Green, Houston, TX. PROOF (2014), Li’s retrospective body of work created with long-term collaborator Alisha B. Wormsley, was first exhibited at Art League Houston in Houston, TX and later at Studio XX’s HTMlles Festival in Montreal, Canada, where Harris and Wormsley were Artists-in-Residence.

Harris has performed at International Jazz Festivals including Newport Jazz Festival, RI (2017); Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland (2015); Jazz Fest Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015); and Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Canada (2013). Harris also headlined at the 2018 Red Bull Round Robin Concert in Chicago, IL along with improvisors such as Roscoe Mitchell. Li’s operatic engagements include The Force of Things: An Opera for Objects by Ashley Fure and The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera by Pauline Oliveros and IONE.

In 2016 Harris was an inaugural Artist-in-Residence of The New Quorum Residency for Composers in New Orleans, LA. Li received a 2020 Monroe Fellows Research Grant from The New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, to develop Li’s environmental justice research project ONSHORE TRILLING: What to Do When the Earth Sings the Bruise.

Harris received a B.M. from Mannes School of Music and an M.M. from Manhattan School of Music. Li is on faculty at the International Contemporary Ensemble’s Ensemble Evolution at The New School’s College of Performing Arts.

A white dressed tall figure held upwards by a structure under their skirts stands next to a person holding a sign and looking towards a school bus.

Performance still from Slaves and Indians, Interruptions, at Art League Houston, Houston, TX, 2013. Performers: Lisa E. Harris, Alisha B. Wormsley, and Mansoor Mahmood. Photo by Alex Barber.

A crowd watches a performer on a dimlight scene, a projection of a house surrounded by green behind the performer. Behind the scene on the left stands a building with the word

Performance still from Cry of the Third Eye, at Smith Library, Houston, TX, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Trailer for Cry of the Third Eye, 2020. Video by Lisa E. Harris with Studio Enertia Media.

FOREVER AND A DAY from Cry of the Third Eye: The Last Resort, 2019. Performers: Lisa E. Harris and Jason Moran.

A performer dressed in a pink-blue dress, pink headpiece and a kimono style cardigan stands on blue lighted stage behind a microphone.

Performance still from Silence III, at Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge, CA, 2019. Photo by Maria Jose Govea.

Time Waits for No Man, Lido di Venezia, Italy, 2015. Performers: Lisa E. Harris and Jason Moran. Video by Lisa E. Harris. © Studio Enertia, 2015.

A person dressed in an orange off the shoulders top and an intricate headpiece. Their body faces the viewer but their head is turned sideways.

Performance still from Sounding the Cistern for Pauline Oliveros, at Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston, TX, 2019. Photo by Ronald L. Jones.