An Odyssey Penetrating the Primal
|A Good Hand|
|Life on Mars|
By Tom Wachunas
"The act of drawing is intrinsic to all visual art disciplines, and to express oneself through the basic mediums of paper and pencil or paint and canvas is to penetrate an interior, subconscious existence - one that is uncharted, yet rich in creative discovery."
-Patricia Zinsmeister Parker / http://www.pzparker.net/
The Cave Paintings Suite / Old Soles Suite – works by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker / THROUGH MARCH 29, 2019 / ART AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE , 2026 Murray Hill Road, Cleveland, Ohio, Suite 108 / 216-721-1507 / Viewing hours: Wednesday and Thursday 4pm - 7pm; Friday 4pm - 8pm; Saturday 12pm - 8pm; Sunday 1 - 5pm / Please call ahead to make sure gallery is open.
I can’t think of a place more well-appointed for exhibiting the prolific wildness of Patricia Zinsmeister Parker than Art At The School House. What used to be an elementary school building in Cleveland’s Little Italy – Murray Hill School, built in 1907 and closed in 1978 – was renovated and re-purposed in the late 1980s, and some of the classrooms have since become art galleries.
The vintage look and atmosphere of the building’s exterior and its internal rooms have been essentially preserved, and the spacious gallery displaying Parker’s mixed media paintings from the past few years provides an intriguingly apropos context for appreciating their visceral physicality and childlike swagger. Here, then, is a richly varied materiality enlivened by Parker’s intrepid and audacious spirit which can be alternately funny, mysterious, alluring, and elusive.
On one long wall of the gallery are 29 small (12” x 12”) paintings on wood panels, some generously sprinkled with glitter or textured with colored splotches of carved joint compound. Collectively, these pieces from Parker’s “Cave Paintings” series have all the disarming abandon and charming snap-crackle-pop of a children’s art show. I certainly don’t mean this in any way to be disparaging or dismissive. Beneath all of Parker’s constant tides of iconographic eclecticism and stylistic eccentricities is an irresistible undertow. A primal force. It’s the same ineffable force that feeds the impulse in a child to literally draw out, or excavate, pure intuition. And it’s this same force that Parker boldly taps in making a deliberately imperfect art. It’s nevertheless a sublime art, celebrating refined un-refinement with often jarring rawness.
While some of her Cave Paintings incorporate actual objects or found images, she doesn’t paint slick pictures of objective realities so much as she paints attitudes. Parker has constructed an intensely personal, codified language, if you will, describing her odyssey into the primal with more adjectives and adverbs than nouns. They may be enigmatic or whimsical symbols of remembered situations or conversations, but they’re not so cryptic that they altogether prohibit us from construing a narrative, or imagining our own dialogue with them.
Dialogue of a kind is an active ingredient in the considerably larger canvases from her “Old Soles” series. She wields a wry and witty brush in these scuffed-up wanderings into ambiguous mindscapes, articulating a frenetic graffiti of the subconscious. Awkward, blotchy shapes and scratched words and phrases mingle together, floating within, or disappearing behind loosely painted fields of pale color. Scribbled figures step forward, then back into a mist. Life on Mars indeed. Are these nervous expeditions through unfamiliar terrains without a map? Is this a psyche deciding whether to reveal itself or run away?
Insightful and inciteful, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker makes art that wags a sassy finger in your face and rattles your sense of “finished” aesthetic decorum. She’s a painter seriously engaged in mindful play, and in the process, not too unlike that gleefully recalcitrant kid who refuses to color inside the lines.