Written for the Exhibition “Visionary Landscapes” at the Glenn and Viola Walters Arts Center, August, 2004.
Pappas-Parks’ Painterly Realistic landscapes incorporate the visual impact of the natural world in accessible form. The physicality of the paint and the personality of the brushstroke have equal importance with “getting the image right.” The Painterly Realist achieves a realistic representation, however, she paints not only what she sees, but how she sees; the painting becomes a record of perceiving and an “at-that-moment” document of what the painter is experiencing both internally and externally.
Pappas-Parks harnesses the power of landscape imagery and explores ways to make an age old painting tradition fresh and original. Using different modus operandi she employs the expression of emotions and sensations through color and light. In this exhibition, we see the artist’s meditations on nature and ethos embodied on canvas and paper. Pappas-Parks recreates the landscape as an intellectually and emotionally charged space, in the process incorporating a range of elements including abstraction, allegory, dreams and personal narrative.
Pappas-Parks’ work reflects on the symbolism of objects and expands its view to the grand and often spiritual impact of natural landscapes. She makes no attempt to picture every detail of a scene; rather, she presents what seems to be the visual essence of the place. She strives to depict the light and mood of the scene that she is inspired to paint and records that moment of time to convey that place as it once existed.
The often symbolic still life images, which are integrated with landscapes, are a central part of Pappas-Parks’ paintings. The objects and figures are placed on a ledge that frames the image and draws the observer into the intimate viewpoint of the painter. This connection with the objects facilitates the still life to personalize the landscape and contributes to the feeling and understanding of what it was to be in that particular location.
Pappas-Parks has taught as an art professor at Portland State University and Harry S. Truman College in Chicago. She has been archived in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC and her artwork is included in many important collections, nationally and internationally.
Gallery Curator, Freelance Writer
In the recent series of the accomplished artist Katherine Pappas-Parks it is worthy of note to consider the influence of her Greek culture in shaping her artistic vision. The other-worldness, surrealism and intensity in Pappas-Parks’ landscapes have their roots in her experience of being raised in a Greek immigrant home. Her culture’s symbolism, superstition, religion and connection to the natural world was the impetus for Pappas-Parks to give way to imagination and created an environment that allowed her to be open to the ideas in surrealism and magical realism.
Her artwork is influenced by the art and traditions of ancient Greece and Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire) and by folklore and superstitions of a culture connected to the land in a way that has remained virtually unchanged for over 3000 years. The art and culture of ancient Greece and Byzantium have had a profound impact on contemporary Greek thought and art, not only in Greece itself, but in the descendants of those Greeks who have left their native lands and established themselves in American culture.
The influence of the religious aspects of Pappas-Parks’ culture on the mystical expression in her artwork is evident. The Greek Orthodox religion with rich traditions that go back thousands of years offers an intellectual and emotional experience where the senses are stimulated and the individual is transported to the spiritual world. Her experience at home and church consisted of the burning of incense which stimulates the sense of smell, the taste of wine that stimulates the palate, the resonating hymns that evoke meditation and the visual appeal of the church’s liturgical objects, art and architecture. Moreover, the Byzantine icon, with surreal images and colors adorned with gold and an intentional unearthly appearance, is a window to the spiritual world revealing the heavenly possibilities for each viewer.
Pappas-Parks’ inclination to paint landscapes charged with emotive energy is tied to her culture’s relationship with nature. Her exploration of the physical world can be traced back to her childhood when her parents shared their experience of the enduring human connection to the land. The close relationship to nature has been part of the Greek culture since its earliest recorded expression in frescos of the Minoan ruins in Crete. Pappas-Parks’ examination of the physical world continued as an adult, when she was influenced by the 20th Century Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, who exhibited an affinity for simplicity in nature and wrote of beauty in an object as simple as a rock.
The richness of life and nature evident in Pappas-Parks’ landscapes and object d’ art is no doubt influenced by her vibrant and sensual culture known for its overindulgence, tragedy and love of life. By realizing Pappas-Parks’ connection to her culture’s relationship to land, art and religion the observer can gain a deeper understanding of what shapes her vision and her propensity towards magical realism and surrealism.
Gallery Curator, Freelance Writer
The current body of work by Katherine Pappas-Parks is illuminant with rich landscapes encompassing flora and fauna which adorn the canvas and scenery. Cobalt blue dances in the sky and along the towering cliffs and waters. Birds with soft feathers are painted with a rich assortment of passionate color. Elegant doves and cranes glide along silvery calm waters punctuated by monolithic rock formations that break out of the water and resonate from the ocean. Striking vanitas come to the foreground enhancing the allegor-ical nature of the paintings.
Although subtle, a notable change in her work is surfacing. We are seeing a celestial pat-tern emerging. Foxes, wild felines and canines, deer, owls, and peacocks stare out looking from their world and into ours. We can only imagine what they are thinking, although poet-ic titles of the paintings such as, “the garden whispers the messenger’s tale,” may give a clue. Katherine explains, “I have always been drawn to paint the natural world and now we are faced with how we are altering our climate and ecosystems. My current body of work reflects how I am apprehensive about the creatures with whom we share the Earth. I think about what world we will leave to them and our children.”
Pappas-Parks’ body of work is in the tradition of previous exhibitions at the Walter Wickiser Gal-lery such as, “If the plants don’t make it, how will we?” and “If the oceans don’t make, it how will we?” Wickiser has asked these questions and perhaps the animals ask the same. Indeed, in re-cent years we have witnessed some of the warmest years on record and hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires have torn through our way of life. Millions in the United States have had the experience of being left without power and even dislocated. We are told we can expect more. There are solu-tions, but movement is slow and the work by Pappas-Parks speaks to our responsibility at hand.
The other-worldliness and intensity in Katherine’s landscapes have their roots in her experience of be-ing raised in a Greek immigrant home. Her artwork is influenced by the art and traditions of ancient Greece and Byzantium. It speaks from a culture connected to the land in a way that has remained re-markably unchanged for over 3000 years. Just as icons from Byzantine art gaze out into the au-dience, so do the animals. Their eyes connect us to “another world” and are perhaps a mirror speak-ing to us from beyond. We discover gold leaf embellishing this body of work which twinkles as stars in celestial skies, adorns a peacock’s feathers, and falls as a light rain onto a tranquil ocean.
When Pappas-Parks is asked about her paintings she describes her animals as, “fierce, majestic, playful and sublime. They are a force for pure expression, rich in allegorical symbol.” When probed about the fire in her work, she explains that, “fire is an ancient symbol of creation, destruction, and transformation in cultures throughout the globe. In the painting, ‘Eternal gaze of the messenger,’ fire is about keeping the flame alive, creation, and life.”
We are drawn into Pappas-Parks’ sumptuous world and lose ourselves in its magnificence and allegory. Not only are we taken by the beauty of the natural landscapes, but we come to a place of contemplation. We are compelled to look both inside ourselves and to the outer world, and then beyond towards the cosmos.
Co- author of “All Electric America, A climate solution and the Hopeful Future,”
Former Editor of Electricity Policy.com, Contributing Writer to Triple Pundit,
Gallery Curator, Freelance Writer, and Environmental Engineer.