Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Call Myself Artist

Addison Parks, Ear, 2016, oil on linen, 14 x 11

Never mind that for years I preferred the more practical term of "painter." I bought into the idea that "artist," like "genius," was something you earned, bestowed upon you by others through merit.

Addison Parks, Lovey, 2016, oil on linen, 20 x 16

I can't remember not painting or drawing. They have been my life long companions, helping me through every phase of my life, every adventure, every change, of which there have been many, every joy, every heart break, every mountain climbed, every fall off said mountains.

Addison Parks, Syrian Kat, 2016, oil on linen, 14 x 11

Whenever I read about the Carl Andres of this world declaring an end to the "tradition" of painting and sculpture I just have to laugh and think that they obviously never knew about these things, never experienced them, never found themselves in them, never lost themselves in them, was never remade or reborn in them. They never got it. Easy to just say nanny nanny poo poo. For me it would be like declaring an end to love or sunlight.

Addison Parks, Landscape with Blue Sky, 1975, oil on board, 16 x 20"
collection of Bruce Helander

Now maybe I am like some Beatrix Potter or Emily Dickinson, more than content with the marriage of imagination and the blank page. A recluse with a box of paints or a pen.

Addison Parks, Three Ships, 1966, oil on board, 6 x 24"
painted on Via della Minerva, Rome

My first box of paints came to me from a mad Welshman my mother had had an affair with when we first moved to Rome. We were flying home to Ohio from a year and a half living on the island of Mykonos and wintering in Athens. I suppose my mother couldn't stand the idea of the options that lay ahead. She looked out the window as we were sitting on the runway in the Rome airport, said quick quick quick, grab your stuff, and we lived there over a five year period, and she for twenty. Until my children were born, Rome was my happiest memory.

Addison ParksBrickabrok (2016); oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

The Welshman, Handel Evans, was a brilliant artist and a joy for me and my sister. We made puppets together and drew and painted all the time. He taught me his artist secrets and I was his devoted apprentice. The year was around 1961-62, and JFK was still alive and beloved in Europe. Handel was not an abstractionist, the art which my mother championed(we had paintings by Kline and Resnick and de Stael to name a few), but his work was well informed by it along with automatism, cubism, and surrealism. It was very powerful and original and fully integrated, but at the same time open to inspiration from Bernini and all the juices that flowed from the breast of the beast that was Rome. Like Pollock and de Kooning he came to learn.

Addison ParksAli (2016); oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

In fact we ended up on that street where they had had studios. Via Margutta. My mother had by then traded in Handel for a more handsome arm, a young tenor from Canada, and all that was left of my first mentor was a box of paints under the stairs that I imagined he had left for me. My first oil painting at the age of 8 was of our cat. I can smell those paints still, like a meal wafting from the kitchen, and feel the excitement and trepidation and miracle of this rich, sensuous, malleable substance that could bring a dry brittle white canvas to life.

Addison ParksBanana Bush (2016); oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

Until then Handel had only let me use pencil, and colored inks. Oil paint was for later. Like black shoes, which my mother would not allow. Boys wore brown. And grey flannel shorts. Never long pants. Rain or shine or snow or sleet I wore shorts. I also had a cough all winter long.

Addison ParksBending Birches (2016); oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

Handel had taught me how to find the painting in the painting surface. How to prepare a wood panel with plaster, and in the barely perceptible patterns commingle memories, dreams, and observations, entwining them by scratching into the plaster and letting the inks flow.

2016, in progress

A few years later Gino Severini would recommend the same practice to me, except that he added sand to the fresh plaster to further enhance the patterns and texture.

Addison Parks, Angel Wings 2, oil on linen, 20 x 16"

These days I let a preliminary coat of paint on the canvas guide me in much the same way. Or sometimes I use the canvas as my palette until it sets a course.

Addison Parks, Angel Wings, oil on board, 8 x 10"

Then the conversation begins. I listen. I respond. I make a proclamation. I wait for an answer. Somewhere in the dance of all that, things find their way to the surface, they reveal themselves, and I am reborn.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, December 2016

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