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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Kingsley Parker: An artist who cares

A Single Vine Invades
the 70-foot Canopy, Kinderhook, NY
acrylic on re-used drop cloth
The artist Kingsley Parker is unusual in a number of ways.

For one, he adeptly works in a wide variety of media – drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking among them. Few artists can pull this off (two examples that come to mind: Michelangelo and Picasso), but Parker does it with aplomb.

Parker also works at wildly different scales, from quasi-miniature to monumental. Additionally, his style can range from detailed realism to total abstraction (including forays into the teasingly humorous), all of which he does, again, with apparent ease.

Finally, Parker has a habit of engaging with a subject, wringing the life out of it (in a good way!), and then moving on to something entirely different - yet another approach that few artists can successfully navigate and most would be well advised to avoid.

Against these odds, Parker throws caution to the wind. And, though there is a thread (I promise you) that binds it all together, I’m not sure that is uppermost in his mind. He just seems to plow ahead with a relentless singularity of focus.

Winter Birch, Mt. Merino, Hudson, NY
acrylic on re-used drop cloth
Most recently, these impressive abilities were on view in a tight solo show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, which closed on Jan. 3. Other Parker works were included in the 2020 Mohawk-Hudson Regional at the Albany Institute of History & Art, which also just closed. The Regional featured online video talks by many of the selected artists, Parker’s being one of the more engaging choices (you can watch it here), and that’s what really got me interested in seeing more of his work. Catching the Thompson Giroux show on its last day proved to be a very satisfying fulfillment of that curiosity.

Indecisive, Chillmark, Mass.
acrylic on re-used drop cloth
Entitled A World of Hurt, the show featured eight very large acrylic paintings on re-used canvas drop cloths, along with six sculptural pieces of various size and materials, and numerous works on paper, some of them mounted and hung and many more in flat files. All but one of the large works and several of the smaller ones are tree portraits, lovingly rendered in natural settings with a variety of atmospheric light conditions. I was told that an additional piece in the same vein was stored in the back – at 130 inches, too tall to hang on the wall.

People who know me well understand that I’m not a huge fan of electronic media and their ubiquitous glowing screens – I’ve often said I’d rather just stare at a tree. Or I could just stare at a Kingsley Parker painting of a tree. The best of them have sufficient detail to hold hours of attention (as they clearly did for him). These homages are carefully observed and obviously quite deeply felt. As I do, he loves these fellow beings and is heartened by their presence in our world; equally, he laments the threats they face as a result of our presence in theirs.

Thing 2 - Found wood, vines, used coffee filters,
acrylic paint, wire, styrofoam, tar, hay, old bucket
I think Parker’s dedication to the environment and his desire to express that through his art is a strength, despite the potential for such an approach to devolve into insubstantial messaging. Lesser artists over the centuries have tried and failed to maintain the highest standard of artistic quality (however measured) while issuing a pointed message, but Parker succeeds, moving the viewer not with the message but with the transcendent power of the art itself.

That he cares so much only adds to this success, because it drives the work forward. Clearly a sensitive soul, Parker effectively applies that sensitivity to the media he employs. Whether in delicately brushed renderings of undersea fauna, carefully placed hills of tiny twigs representing a clear cut, or hauntingly depicted midnight-dark forests, Parker’s technique wins hearts and - there’s always hope – minds.

I’d only been vaguely aware of Parker before these two exhibitions, and I’m sorry it took so long, but it has most certainly been worth the wait. Check out more of his work at

Unclaimed Luggage - found luggage, used coffee filters, fabric