|| Nathaniel Parsons Studio Visit, October 2017 ||
Camera Operator: Joshua Kates
Gallery 16 visited Nathaniel Parsons' studio in Oakland, California in anticipation of the artist's solo exhibition, "Together We Make Things Happen." The title of this immersive exhibition is a reflection of the artist’s interest in how we come together to coexist. The artist presents over 100 pieces spanning nearly 25 years of his career, offering viewers an exploration of his unique approach to artmaking. Parsons will transform the gallery with an ambitious installation, a complex web of past and present works that blend into one another. The work can be seen as a type of totem pole that combines diverse stories into one overlapping narrative. In native traditions, totem poles weren’t objects of worship, but devices for community storytelling. Similarly, Parsons’s art, made with found materials, deflects reverence and instead honors coexisting histories.
Nathaniel Parsons’s work has roots in folk art, narrative painting, wood carving and a community-building social practice. He is known for drawing heavily from rural Americana, outsider artwork and naturalist writing. Found and scavenged materials are regularly employed in Parsons’s work as favors those that have a well-worn history. Parsons values the embedded history within each element, seeing this choice as a process of building upon history, rather than creating autonomous objects without a past. Previous projects have involved visitors taking walks with the artist while he works or creating public picnic tables that are carved as a community project. Generosity, friendship and shared vision guide his projects and viewers are able to see themselves in the creation of Parson’s distinct works.
“When does a story get to be a tall tale, how is a moral born, and if the artist has a desire to consider all that, when and where does it become relevant?”
-- Nathaniel Parsons
Together We Make Things Happen will also have a counterpart group exhibition in Gallery 16’s project space curated by Parsons. True to his desire to share, he’s curated a show within a show. Artists included are Hamlett Dobbins and Tad Lauritzen of Mellow Mountain Coalition, Brooke Inman, Jeff Morris, Lexa Walsh, Billy Ward and David Dunlap.
About Nathaniel Parsons: Nathaniel Parsons was raised in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, among a family of artists. He graduated with a BFA from California College of the Arts (Oakland) in 1993 and with an MFA from the University of Iowa with a concentration in painting, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, and performance. His art practice explores themes of alter egos, visiting parks, shared authorship, and storytelling. As an observational artist, he chooses to work on projects, new, worn and carved from what appears needed to get the job done. Paintings are made on surfaces where some element comes from a found source, stretcher bars, milled wood, cut offs. There is a continual effort to reach Point Sublime. He’s sung songs in a band called Little My, playing shows and making souvenirs for the audience. He has shown projects nationally in Memphis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Oakland and Cleveland and internationally in The Republic of Macedonia. He lives and works in Oakland California.