When Rick Parsons makes art, he seeks to explore automatic writing, jazz thinking, and three-dimensional forms — all while zeroing in on the environment.
The Texas native draws inspiration from his background growing up nestled between a salt marsh and chemical refineries.
His work explores the effect of environmental pollutants on the body using three materials as metaphor — clay, steel and salt. He introduced the process of automatic writing — the act of writing from the subconscious with no narrative directing the thought process — to his work. The unconventional writing process serves as inspiration for the title of his latest show, “Writing From Mars.”
The display, sponsored by the Capital City Arts Initiative, is going up Friday in the CCAI Courthouse Gallery, 885 E. Musser St. CCAI will host a reception for the artist on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.
One of several elements found in the exhibit is a physics lab book from 1922 that belonged to the artist’s grandmother. The book serves as a platform for the exhibition, which also features two lab tables at the center of the gallery with a large drip painting flanking the exterior.
Elements drifting in and out of Parsons’ work include clay, representing the body and biology; saltwater, which heals, preserves and destroys; and steel, representing the social and spiritual structure humans build their lives around. The clay forms are first soaked in saltwater to absorb the salt, much like the body absorbs the chemicals in its surroundings. Parsons then places the clay objects onto steel plates where the salt causes the steel to oxidize. Steel is a material that’s perceived as having great strength yet can be weakened by a material as simple as salt. And herein lies the irony of the sculpture: The same material that’s used as the healing agent is also the catalyst for destruction. In the center of the gallery between the two lab tables sits a large Buddha on a dining table.
All these elements, the artist hopes, come together to create space that mimics the mind in a place of lucid contemplation.
“My ultimate goal as an artist and educator is to create art and environments that generates questioning and discovery, for within this framework of learning and expression, a shift in perception can take place, and a new understanding of life can be revealed,” said Parsons.
Parsons has been teaching at Sierra Nevada College for eight years and was named the 2012/2013 Faculty Member of the Year by the SNC student body. He was awarded the Nazir and Mary Ansari 2014/2015 Excellence in Teaching Gold Medal Award. He has also served as sculpture program coordinator at Anderson Ranch Arts Center and has taught at both the University of Dallas and Colorado Mountain College.
Artist and writer Chris Lanier wrote the exhibition essay.
The exhibit will be in the gallery through May 23. The reception and the exhibition are free. The gallery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
For information, visit CCAI’s website at www.arts-initiative.org.