As the poet David Whyte once remarked on the unfolding of the soul, “In some ways it’s more like a gravitational pull: you never arrive there. You simply feel yourself come alive in that magnetism.” Santa Clara’s own Triton Museum of Art’s new exhibition, “Susan Parker: Color, Form, and Memory,” (running from August 20th – October 23rd) reflects the artist Parker’s interest in Whyte’s words. Her fifteen canvas show asks viewers to explore personal journeys, both of the artist and of the audience themselves.
Each of the three different series mixed through the exhibition – Chart / Compass, Fossil, and Tracery – employ color-rich acrylic canvases of inscrutable meaning. The Chart / Compass series clearly reflects Parker’s background sailing on a racing team in San Francisco throughout the blue and yellow paintings etched with lines and marks evoking compasses, horizon lines, and the fluidity of the seashore. However, her Fossil works are a bit more open to interpretation. At first, with a back-bone or DNA-inspired line neatly dividing her canvases filled with rusted sunset-like colors, there seems little to wonder about. But then, upon looking at her pieces more closely, particularly Fossil Three (2015), natural shapes and patterns – whether bones or leaves or twigs — seem to emerge from the depths of the painting, like looking back on the fossil history of a place, or even a person. Her third and most recent series, Tracery, offered the most reflective moments of the exhibition – the cracked sand colors of the canvas overlaid with a haphazard assortment of intersecting lines asked viewers to focus both on the hazy map-like images and the bleached background they rested on. What do we remember, the pieces seemed to ask – what’s directly in front of us or what has faded from view?
While visiting the exhibit, expect that you may find yourself engaged in conversation with other art aficionados. The paintings seem to invite onlookers to wonder about the construction – how did she create that eerie etching effect? How did she layer the paint? – while also commenting on how the paintings themselves made them think of their own lives and their memories. Some compared the pieces to abstract quilt designs while others thought about fun moments along California’s Delta.
My own impression of the pieces were greatly enhanced by the gallery itself. Standing in the middle of the octagonal-shaped space and turning slowly to look at the canvases – both large and small – felt like watching the gentle movement of the colored flecks spin in my favorite kaleidoscope as a child, changing shape and emotion with each flick of my wrist. As Parker herself comments in her artist statement, “The finished painting gives me a sense of having arrived at a place of reconciliation between the world of ideas and memories, and the world of physical matter.”
Parker’s exhibition matches nicely with the current display in the front space of the gallery – Elaine Horn’s photographs and descriptions of icebergs from both Iceland and Antarctica continue the theme of exploring the natural world. These pieces also complement works from the permanent collection including paintings by Vern Trindade and Karim Alwali, who both appeared in previous exhibits.
Of course, Parker’s exhibit isn’t the only new work to be displayed in the Triton. Ceramics artist Francisco (Pancho) Jimenez’s first Bay Area solo exhibition “Excavations and Interpretations” also opened on the 20th. Along with the free artist reception on September 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. honoring both Jimenez and Parker, Jimenez will also be speaking at a brown bag lunch event on Wednesday, September 21 from 12-12:45 p.m.