Sunday, January 12, 2014

Portrait of the Artist, 1997

Heads or Tails
Patricia Zinsmeister Parker at Translations Gallery

Remember when you were in school and thought that all your teachers were really old? Then years later you start crossing paths with them and realize that holy crap, they were probably not that much older after all. You know what that makes you?....still the student. It is like still being a kid at your parents’ house even when your kids are adults too.  Weird.  Because of the internet, I have found so many of my past professors to still be out and about in the art world, still working, writing and relevant. Such is the case with PZP (my spell check will go nuts if keep writing out the name) as I had a few classes from her back in the late 70’s and early 80’s at the U of A. Can’t recall exactly which ones, but I do remember her in the classroom, going to visit her studio someplace in downtown Akron, and trying to explain the whole Tut and Judd thing to my Dad.

Tut and Judd was a painting by PZP included in one of the Cleveland May Shows back in the day when that show was at its hierarchy of status. At the time, I could not appreciate all she had to offer as a teacher because I was still in my realism stage up against a professor who wanted to tap into our inner rebel. I was not a rebel. It was a battle of philosophies to which I did not really contribute much in the way of ammo, just wrapped my wounds and kept going back up to the front lines.

So it is with great delight that I have seen her work reemerge over the past several years at the MassMu Stark County show and now here in a full “retrospective” of sorts, a little of the old  mixed in with a little of the new. I am pleased to realize that my thesis back then (and written about here previously) can be seen here in full validation by the many pieces that line the walls and drop down the middle of Translations. Oh…the title of that thesis was “Experiments on the Consistency of Variation”.

PZP is every bit the seasoned veteran of art as exhibition AND expression. By that I mean she signs, dates and titles just about everything in the show. That is so super important because it makes the whole concept of stylistic development relevant and allows one to appreciate the different phases and locations of her work plus lets us into a bit more of her thought process. Young artists need to understand the importance of this date and signature stuff….believe me, 20 years from now, you will have no idea when you made a certain piece and that information could be valuable should you still be in this biz for a long career. Knowing when a piece was made enables us to put into context what was happening with the artist as creator at that time of their life.

Along the south wall are a series of portraits from a year-long study of her own image dated 1997. Each one is a luscious garden of markings, textures, colors and psychosis. Read the title, look into the eyes and think about what she was doing, left handed, and it will make sense. My favorite of that wall is “Pollyanna” because that is the image I have in my own head of who she looks like from back in my day. The realists out there need to read the statement which explains the whole left hand/bad art connection to fully appreciate what is under that glass. Someday I hope to try it just to see what happens. Down the center are three large raw canvas paintings of which “Long hair” is so on target to me because of the gesture of leaning over to flip the hair (it is both an art form and a potential back injury in the making) but what stands out is the nail in her back. Okay, it is only a paint drip, but how perfectly placed to be in her back like that as if pinpointing the exact location of a muscle spasm and the resulting debilitating pain (remember that art is personal and should speak to us). I could go into the whole ghost figure and art history references but appreciate the here and now of what is on the surface. Hop over to Artwach for more intensive interpretation and lots of great images of the works. I float on the surface in my rafty thing and he goes scuba diving when we write about the same shows because he has the background and I got the banter.

On the north wall are groupings of figure studies, paintings and drawings from the mid 1980’s through 2011 laid out such that almost each grouping has a piece from her different series or eras. This is so much better than having all the sketchbook ones together and then all the Mexico studies together etc because it allows the viewer to appreciate each drawing individually, not compared to another. I offer that the limited wash and charcoal sketches are among the best especially when one realizes that they are 3 minutes studies.  Nude Study #14, 2011 is my favorite (see…if she had not titled and dated the piece, how would you know where to look? Untitled 2011 would get you nowhere.) and so is Model with Red Hair 1985.  Hmmm….looking back over this, I have selected pieces from 1985, 1997 and 2011… why did I not pay more attention in 1979? The good news is that she is still out and about, making art, trying new things and showing at the galleries….which means I have a long way to go too!  There is an interesting generation of us Shrank Hall South’ers including Diane Belfiglio, Margo Miller and Mark Soppeland still kick’n the canvas down the street. Glad to see that PZP is still in the game as well!

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