Nathaniel Parsons misses his river

We are so very proud to host the large paintings of Nathaniel Parsons at Levende, opening April 1, 2011. The reception will begin at 9pm after Oakland’s First Friday. The show is called TRAVELAGE and will run for one month. I snapped the pictures below during a studio visit with him at his spacious workspace down at the Hive in Oakland.

Obi: This is the third studio visit and interview I’ve had with you Nat in the past four years that we have been friends. I am a huge fan, collector and even curator of your work, so I want to ask you some advanced questions about your work. In prepping for TRAVELAGE, as you are making some of the largest pieces in your recent catalog, how have you taken on the challenge? Has working large-scale changed your process, or does it just take longer?

Nathaniel: I haven’t always worked small. I was gifted these surfaces by studio mate Dave Higgins, I am indebted to the freedom it encouraged. It gave me more room not to fill up. I think I was able to pull out the bigger brushes and depict bigger gestures. The smaller work tends to derive structures found in systems like maps, shared space, use of legend or key, associative elements in layered compositions. The bigger ones somehow didn’t need that, for me. I was happy to keep the work more sparse.

Obi: You have been back in the Bay Area for about five years. How does San Francisco compare to the your homeland? What is your homeland and what tradition does SanFrancisco represent in your own narrative, given your regular references to Americana history and the like?

Nathaniel: I became a conscious maker in Oakland, 1990, the painting, was of my girlfriend, I loved her so much, the image mostly yellow, always had her in it, but it also found it’s identity as a stage, an interior with ghosts all around, there is a man, and a section of the painting that I painted from still life. A thrift store mug full of tulips sitting on a table. It was a fusing of the real and the imagined and desired. Yuri and Josh own it. I am always happy to have made it. That painting was unlike my teacher’s work, it is fairly formal, but what made it relate to the times, to this place has fueled me ever since. I am the son of artists, this town is the sibling to the nation, even the natives seem to know that were on the edge, a little out of view, a little too real. I respect and wish to honor the importance of the work that has been made in California, SF Figuration, Bay Area Realism, California Conceptualism, Beat Era Funk Art, I water the graves of those that I can only know through what they made. I choose to live here because I can feel right most of the time in being reverent of such production while cobbling together my work. I Miss My River.

Obi: I know there are stories attached with each of your pieces. Your art, as you say, is born out of conversation. You have one piece in the show with names swirling out of a campfire. Can you tell me that story? And then the bucket with the mirror? The Hanky Pool? Tell me that story too.

Nathaniel: First Audience 2011 oil on canvas depicts a campfire in a forest. The trees or people behind the trees shout out the names of friends, this painting is a tribute to my parents friends, not all are included, some have passed, my parents have moved. They were always so generous to an inquisitive child. It illustrates an idea I had of building a fire pit in the woods for my parents to have a “last” party.
Hanky Pool 2011 oil on canvas with painted wood, and objects. Is a depiction of a former feature at Yellowstone National Park. The Hanky Pool was stationed on tours by a ranger that would dirty a hanky and throw it in to the pool, it would get sucked down and disappear for two minutes, only to resurface cleaned by the heated water. He would fish it out with a metal basket. The pool became clogged by visitors throwing in their own objects. I contemplate this with slogans, What Goes In Dirty Comes Out Clean or What Goes In Broken Comes Out Whole. Of course this cant always be true.

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