Peter Parks has been committed to painting for close to 50 years, most of which have been in Taos. In 1971, one of his mentors told him, "Taos is a really nice little painting community."
Early on, Parks was torn between the art colonies of New York and Taos. Ultimately, Parks said he chose to paint in Taos for his own peace of mind.
Parks concentrates on being in his studio to paint. He's been quite busy painting and hasn't been concerned about exhibiting. Now, the time is right for an exhibition of large scale oil paintings and small watercolors.
An exhibition of Peter Parks' paintings will open with a reception Saturday (May 5), 5-7 p.m., at Magpie Gallery, 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in El Prado's Overland Compound. The show will remain on view through May 30.
Georgia Gersh's gallery Magpie continues to showcase artists in Taos that deserve to be seen. Everyone in Taos knows Parks, yet he's remained under the radar.
He makes painting look easy, but it isn't. The new watercolors contain soft-edged marshmallow shapes stacked teetering with rhythmic harmonic color. The large-scale oil paintings flow with layer after layer of paint in thin veils playing off the surface. Paint drips down or runs across the canvas.
What may appear chaotic is in fact controlled and tended to. He's excited about exhibiting the new oil paintings and showing them to the public. A sneak preview of the watercolors can be seen on his Instagram feed @peterparkspaintings .
Parks and Bill Gersh were old friends. That's the connection to Georgia Gersh [owner of Magpie]. Georgia had this to say: "There is a group of many artists that I grew up with who remind me of one another. While there are not a lot of similarities in the outcome of their work, Peter Parks reminds me of my dad, Bill Gersh, a little; they were friends and are of the same ilk. There is a familial comfort when I see him, but the most pronounced similarity is that he is a painter; he paints. Peter Parks paints every day. It's not a choice or a job; it's a life. I find it completely admirable and want to support it as best I can."
In a statement to Tempo, curator Jina Brenneman said, "The first time I went to Peter's studio, I saw stacks of paintings. One in particular caused me to drift away to another place. I could smell the lichen, feel the color red quenching a thirst I didn't know I had. That may sound dramatic… but Peter's paintings are dramatic. They are quiet yet they scream. An abstract painting I have on my wall no longer looks abstract to me. Instead it is a spot on the landscape of the beautiful town Peter calls home."
Parks spoke about his journey as an artist, not only physically where he's been, from San Francisco to New York and along the way back and forth to Taos, but also what he thinks about. He passionately speaks about what's to come in the exhibition at Magpie.
He mentions the rich red and yellow ochres in the paintings of aboriginal artists. Artists he refers to include William Blake, John Singer Sargent, Albert Pinkham Ryder and Richard Tuttle, along with the American abstract expressionists, covering a broad range.
Having shown Parks' work in 2013, gallery owner Greg Moon said, "For me Peter's work is akin to something transcendental. His methodology and total immersion into the process brings a metaphysical quality to his work."
In conversation, Parks seems to be at times full of self-doubt. His thoughts about painting emerge, but he's quick to swipe them away, dismissing his own sincerity and sentimentality. His mannerisms reveal that he is thinking, about painting, about approach, about clarity. Painting is Parks' sanctuary, his spiritual quest. "I'm looking for some kind of meaning or substance."
"What makes Parks' work different and interesting is his masterful use of and experimentation with often subtle color and shape. I expect to feel something when I look at a painting, and it's amazing to me how much vibration these seemingly simple compositions exude. They are like poems. His small watercolors, like a meaningful haiku and his large oils like Ginsberg's beat." Georgia Gersh
There are painters that other painters admire. Parks is one of those to be admired. Peter Parks has accepted the journey of being a full-time artist in this nice little painting community of Taos. The exhibition at Magpie gives Taoseños an opportunity to see exactly what being a dedicated artist means.
Taos photographer-filmmaker Kathleen Brennan documented Parks in a 2013 short film, which reveals first-hand Peter's thought process. If you can't attend the reception and speak with Parks personally, take a moment to watch the film. The online link is: vimeo.com/74538247. Also, visit peterparkspaintings.com.