I have been interested in the works of April Dawn Parker and went to see her series called “Places” at Gallerie Citi. I look forward to seeing her series “The Well” in May.
April Dawn Parker, “New Development,” 14” x 10”, gouache on paper, c. 2012
April Dawn Parker, Islands, 14” x 10”, gouache on paper, c. 2012
April Dawn Parker, Reef, 14” x 10”, gouache on paper, c. 2012
April Dawn Parker, Village, 14” x 10”, gouache on paper, c. 2012
Though only four small paintings are included here from Parker’s “Places” series, they aptly illustrate the genius of her prodigious vision. (It is as if she possesses two occipital lobes and can see microscopically and macroscopically at the same time.) As viewers we are at once soaring high above the earth into the cosmos, and then while standing on the ground, gazing beneath the skin into corpuscles, then deep into the ground, like cartographers, surgeons, and geologists. Her careful choice of forms and colors are part of her method of overlaying aerial topographical maps and close up, microscopic perspectives. Despite being highly imaginary, the forms serve as haunting reminders of actual places she has visited in her travels. These components all work together to achieve a disorienting visual and psychological experience. The work is exhilarating and dizzying!
Parker told me that her paintings demand novel ways of seeing places. Because the physical locations are caught up with particular times and events, space and time mesh. She wants viewers to imagine “seeing” the earth from both near and far away simultaneously. Nevertheless, we are left to our own design regarding what to make of her organic shapes, along with her curious choice of neutral colors. For me, the colors suggest a dissipation of memories. Memories we have often brush up against each other, bump each other around, displace each other, morph and blur. Parker magically captures this experience in her paintings.
A different series by Parker, which will be on view this May at Gallerie Citi, is titled “The Well” and consists of much larger paintings done with oil on canvas. The title refers to an actual well at one of the 17 places Parker lived during her childhood. (Parker lived in 17 homes from the time she was born until she was 17 years old!) But the image of the well is also the perfect metaphor for each of her small paintings since it suggests a place of both danger and nourishment. She delves into her own experiences of displacement and reorientation that constituted much of her childhood. The paintings themselves are tours de force that express her drive to transform childhood anxieties into mature and beautiful art. Here is a sampling of some of the paintings in “The Well.”
April Dawn Parker, Drake Rd. (Loc. 4), 30” x 24”, oil on canvas, c. 2013
April Dawn Parker, Palmer Creek (Loc. 14), 30” X 24”, oil on canvas, c. 2013
April Dawn Parker, West L.A. (Location 15), 34” x 28”, oil on canvas, c. 2013
These three paintings remind me of Samuel Beckett’s plays, which also are often about displacement and disorientation. Hilton Als in The New Yorker makes a similar observation regarding Beckett’s notion of displacement: “the fear, the hope, the cold stink of madness and loss” (The New Yorker, December 9, 2013). Although Parker’s paintings are too refined to have much of Beckett’s “cold stink,” they do retain much of the playwright’s “fear, hope… and loss.” It is this protean edginess that is life affirming and brings them to life. The paintings themselves become “places” of complex interaction and perplexing diversity, like new small towns morphing into manic cosmopolitan cities, then back again, resting temporarily in paralyzing suburbs.
For addition details on exhibitions of her artwork, visit Parker’s website.
You can also visit Andra Norris’s gallery, Gallerie Citi, an intelligent and sophisticated space, for it’s current and interim exhibitions.
Photos: Courtesy of Gallerie Citi