A Layered Approach

1,000 Words - Richard Parrish

It’s easy to see the architectural influence in architect-turned-artist Richard Parrish’s work. The kiln-formed pieces that make up his Aerial Perspectives series are works of precision, composed of stark lines, perfect circles, and meticulous layers. They suggest both landscape photos and topographic maps, while also remaining wonderfully abstract.

Parrish accomplishes this using glass and heat — and a few other tricks of the trade. He builds his layers and textures and colors by layering glass sheets or sifting varying shades of pulverized glass — from earthen browns, to delicate greens, to bold oranges and reds — into shallow ceramic fiber molds. Next comes the manipulation. Parrish uses various tools to move the powdered glass around his “canvas.” His tool of choice often relates to the idea he’s expressing — water to create a sense of erosion, for example. Once he has created the effects he’s looking for, he fuses it all together in the kiln. Sometimes this fusing, too, is followed by manipulation, such as the grinding of the glass to reveal the layers beneath the surface.

Through this unique process, Parrish creates pieces of art that convey a deep sense of place and his appreciation for the landscapes he’s spent his life in — those of Idaho, where he grew up, and of Montana, his adopted home. He celebrates the expansive prairies. The powerful rivers. The stunning ice fields. But he doesn’t shy away from representing human-driven changes to the land either. Indeed, it’s easy to find the imprint of a childhood spent helping out around his family’s southeast Idaho farm in the parceled plots, fields, and crop irrigation circles that appear in many of his works.

“The act of farming was pretty fascinating to me,” Parrish says. “I remember as a little kid, we flood irrigated the whole farm. The well was on the high end of the farm, and basically we ran the water down ditches and across the fields to irrigate it. And my father actually did this major earthworks project … I remember cutting through the layers of the earth and being fascinated by what was underneath the surface.”

Learn more about Richard Parrish’s work at www.fusiostudio.com.

There’s also a clear environmental undercurrent in Parrish’s work. In Aerial Perspectives, it’s subtle. As Parrish explains, you might need to read about his work, or speak with him, to tease it out. But it’s there all the same in his representation of erosion, in his depiction of “the interruption of the natural — if there is such a thing anymore — landscape with the imposition of the Jeffersonian grid.”

In another series, Tipping Point, Parrish tackles environmental issues more directly, exploring climate change and the idea of “being on the brink or being on the edge of the abyss.” In On the Edge, one of the pieces in this smaller series, a deep blue landscape appears awash in brilliant red and orange flames. In a second, Slide, Parrish uses muted tones to portray the mudslides that often follow wildfires.

Parrish hopes that if people connect with his artwork first, they might then connect with the messages, and inspiration, behind it. The love of place. The beauty of nature. And the power of humans to change, for better or worse, the landscapes all around us.

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