“Mechanical meets organic,” is how artist Beth Parker describes her work. In her acrylic paintings, Parker creates compelling little worlds populated by robotlike creatures who often resemble fish or birds, or a combination of both. Her semiabstract images have a design based quality, with lots of geometric elements and hints of both cubism and surrealism. It’s a universe all its own, open to interpretation by the viewer.
“I read a lot of science fiction,” says the artist, who explains that her paintings don’t necessarily have a narrative. They are just a combination of many of the elements that interest her. “All sorts of things flit through my mind,” she says. “Fish and tidal pools, scenes of busy spaceports, fragments of DNA.”
After growing up on the Vineyard, Parker attended the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C. She recalls walking through the National Gallery every day on her way to classes. “I would walk past their little Leonardo on my way to school,” she says. “I used to go to the Smithsonian all the time. D.C. was a great place to be as an art student. All of the museums are free.”
When she moved back to the Island, Parker focused on raising a family and working at various jobs. Still, she’s managed to find time to paint. In the past she has shown her work at the Art Workers’ Guild, Doug Parker’s On the Vineyard, the Wren Gallery, and, more recently, A Gallery in West Tisbury.
The artist developed her unique style a while back, and has pretty much stuck to creating imaginative “landscapes,” as she refers to her paintings. “People like to see the organic mechanical,” she says, adding that she often tries to add more vibrant hues to appeal to the general preference for color, but she has for the most part stuck with a subdued palette.
Of course, living on an Island has influenced her choice of subject — fish and birds being in abundance. Still, Parker’s creatures spring wholly from her imagination, not tied to any rules of biology, or even physics. “I create animals that don’t have to obey gravity,” she says. “You can have them floating on your canvas anywhere.”
Last year, before the world came to a standstill, Parker decided to focus more on her painting. She works full-time as a landscaper during the warmer months, and had found that her job left her minimal time to create, so she and her husband, poet Donald Nitchie, decided to scale back on their addiction to the news. “The year before, we stopped watching so much news on TV,” she says. “We used to sit down and watch all of the MSNBC shows. I can’t take it anymore. That has enabled me to be able to work more in my studio.”
Currently Parker’s large-scale paintings are the focus of an online exhibit on the Pathways Arts website. All of the work is for sale, with prices under $1,000. She also has smaller works on paper for around $250 that can be found on her Facebook page.