Gallery Spotlight: Moab
Moab Art Works: Candy for the Eye
by Elizabeth Matthews
When Brian Parkin, with his wife, Marian Boardley, moved to Moab in 2001 from San Francisco, he had no intention of becoming a gallery owner. Parkin, who was born in England, and earned degrees in Chemistry (University of Reading, England) and Education (University of Reading, England), obtained his MFA in photography from The Academy of Art College in San Francisco. He worked for years in the commercial photography world in San Francisco, but when he first came to Moab he was content to simply enjoy the atmosphere. "I spent some time in Moab just enjoying the feel of the place," Parkin says. "It's a very interesting place. I found that it's a comfortable place. I like the people here; I like the ease with which people talk to each other. I really put the camera away for about three years."
Parkin eventually picked up the camera again, and when he found he was having fun with it, he started to consider opening a gallery. He spent a long time in search of the right space, looking at over a dozen different buildings before deciding on the one that now houses Moab Art Works. "This space was a candy store," Parkin says, "but my wife and I saw the potential." A narrow corridor and ample wall space appealed to the couple. The gallery space itself is about 400 sq. feet with another area half that size that provides office space and a bathroom. When Parkin first discovered the space, however, it was unavailable. In the meantime, Parkin carried on with his photography and started doing copy photography for local artists, which allowed him to preview their work. In the fall of 2006, the former candy store became available to them, and even though they weren't quite ready, Parkin and Broadley snatched it up and immediately began creating their gallery, that now has four exposed pine beams that span the ten-foot ceilings, with spot lighting and soft white walls.|0|
Over the past six months, Moab Art Works has become a full-time pursuit. The last real body of work Parkin was able to produce was "Recent Developments," a series of ten pieces all shot with a Hasselbalch camera over a period of two weeks during June and July of 2006. |1-4| Since moving to Moab, Parkin noticed the unease recent development was bringing to the community the tension between the need for people to have a place to live, and the desire to protect the environment, the reason people come to Moab in the first place. “I wanted to do a series of work that allowed me to comment with my imagery,” Parkin explains. “I’m not a very political person, because I’m not really sure where my opinions lie, but I felt that I could draw attention to these issues by looking at the divisions, the boundaries between the needs of economy and people needing somewhere to live and the needs of the environment, and so my work “Recent Developments” attempted to do that.”
The community’s recent development also influenced Parkin’s decision to start his gallery. Parkin noted that there are a high percentage of second homes in the area, many of them owned by Salt Lakers. An interesting phenomenon is that these people start out vacationing in Moab and soon find a reason to relocate to the area. Parkin sees the new development as more and more walls needing art.
Parkin is driven to develop a professional gallery he looks to New York’s Chelsea area as inspiration one that takes advantage of Moab’s tourist traffic but also one that develops long-term clients in the town, the state and the region. “The most important thing is I have wall space, a presence on the street and good lighting,” Parkin says when describing the gallery. “With those three things I can build for the future. We are on the best block for foot traffic in Moab and even though we want to build the local clientele, collectors and people who are here in their second home and spend half the year here, there are quite a number of people like that. We also realize that quite a bit of our business is going to be from people on vacation and people on vacation often have disposable income.”
The gallery plans to hold monthly exhibitions. To fill these monthly slots Parkin looks for artists with passion, ones that have something invested in their work. It is important for him to see that they have a body of work. “Probably every person that takes pictures has a very good individual photograph or even a few. But it takes something more to develop a series, particularly in photography. You can give out an idea, a point of view; encourage the viewer to question something about themselves, their pre-conceptions. And a single photograph is able to do that, but a series of photographs is able to do that much better.” Because of his own background, Parkin has a bias toward photographers and notes that his gallery is “really the only place [in Moab] where the photographers have any space.”
Parkin’s always excited to meet artists and have them talk about their work. “I’ll set aside an hour of my time and talk with the artist about what they are doing now and about their direction for the future,” he says. But he notes that any interested artist should call ahead for an appointment. Parkin says his comfort and interest in speaking with people comes from his mother, and teaching high school chemistry in England and Belgium. “And having a high street business,” he says in his British idiom, meaning a Main Street business, “you are opening your doors to the public, you want people to come in. If you are not the kind of person who likes to visit with people then I would probably suggest another profession.”
Upcoming shows: Moab Art Works next exhibition, Syzgies: Dane Spangler's Real & Surreal Landscapes opens Friday, April 13th and runs through the end of the month. Spangler is a photographer, illustrator, and web designer based in Boulder, Colorado. The show will present both real landscapes and surreal landscapes. Most images are digitally captured and Photoshop enhanced - the surreal images are digital composites. In May, the gallery will exhibit Ethereal Days, new works from Moab photographer Chris Conrad. Conrad's photographs combine analog image capture and development with digital output. Time exposure night photos are combined with a second daylight exposure to produce startling images of the landscape. Show runs May 5th through June 7th.
Lindsay Frei . . . continued from page 1
Because of the mystery of these paintings-- the portrayed garments’ significance as beings in and of themselves -- the viewer is challenged to consider various issues on the relevance of these garments and their relationship to the wearer. One might ask, in their autonomy do the sitters wear clothing or do the clothes wear them? Although clothing is commonly considered merely a basic human need, much like water or shelter, these items of clothing seem to dominate the painting rather than the model wearing them. Yet each sitter seems so at home, so natural in these clothes. The old garment suits them and they are at ease in their own space.
In a society such as ours, or others throughout many centuries, clothing has transformed from the primal need to warm and protect to become a symbol of how we live. In the day of Prada, Gucci, and Burberry, more and more emphasis is placed upon where and how one fits into society by the way one dresses. An immense value is placed upon clothing, as an identifier of power, wealth, position and status in society. It can be a source of vanity and pride. On the other extreme, it can represent poverty and destitution.
Frei's use of re-using, her reconstituting the discarded, brings the concept of clothing into a new context. With the autonomy of the garments used in the exhibit, and what we understand about how clothing functions in society, one begins to question the nature of clothing in regards to our very sense of identity and individuality. The identity of the original wearer is questioned and in placing the old clothing with a new wearer, one sees a new individuality emerge. In this new synthesis, the element of the nature of clothing and the power it has becomes apparent.
Frei's examination of garments, as objects and as dressing, places her in a long art historical tradition. In Western art, clothing has always been an important tool for artists to indicate character and status and carry meaning. In religious painting, the color of clothing was used to identify important characters ("Madonna blue" for the Virgin, and white for Christ). In Northern Europe, before artists began to focus on the emotional qualities of the sitter, the artist painted clothing in excruciating detail to reveal the status of the sitter. In Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the Italian Renaissance, the lack of clothing was equally important and revealed the natural beauty of the human form. However, these pursuits were concerned less with individuality and more with identity to designate a Venus or a Diana and such was a generalized iconography.
Modern artists, such as Lucian Freud and Eric Fischl, surpassed the aim of naturalism of the nude to examine the "naked," exploring the naked in a social context, in the case of Fischl, or, with Freud, the psychology of the human body and mind stripped bare, left to its primal state. However, with Fischl, the subject is often used in an overtly sexual context; the individuality is primarily irrelevant and reduced to the carnal. Contemporary artist Marilyn Minter instigates ideas of ornament and clothing and their social context. In her lush and gaudy representations, dress and excess defy social norms, breaking social rules. An expensive shoe, although filthy and smeared, is still glamorous. Here again we see how the power of dress possesses the ability to transfix, to create, to identify, to individualize.
Many relevant questions are raised in Frei's exhibition. The very nature of identity is put to the test. Is it we who wear the clothes or do the clothes wear us? Who are we are in society? Does wearing an expensive shoe automatically make one above someone with a less expensive shoe, even though the expensive one is smeared and stained? Without clothing, are we merely sexual, like a Fischl, or generalized like a Venus by Titian? What constitutes our individuality? Such questions are addressed in this exhibition. Frei's lucky discovery of used clothing, with their mystery and re-use by a contemporary sitter, allows the viewer of this exhibition to examine such issues, initiating an inquiry into a society which is more and more based upon individuality and what separates as opposed to what connects.||