The City Magazine Since 1975

Making Conversation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Herb Parker creates art from found objects in his studio space (right) and also builds organic structures all over the world, including Artpark Dialogue at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, 2013 (top left) and Alsace Golden Rectangle in Alsace, France, 2011. Photographs (portrait) by Ruta Elvikyte & (2) courtesy of Herb Parker

September 25, 2013

Making Conversation
Tomorrow, Herb Parker gives an artist talk on his Halsey Institute exhibit of dialogue-inspiring sculptures

written by Erica Jackson Curran

Herb Parker’s organic structures have sprouted up all over the world, from beneath a waterfall in Japan to, most recently, Artpark on the Niagara River in New York. Composed of natural materials like bamboo, clay, and moss, the structures aren’t really built to last, yet they leave a lasting impression on viewers, who often walk away with an altered perception of the environment—at least that’s Parker’s goal.

But the College of Charleston professor also has a separate body of work that he creates in his Holy City studio, and it’s these found-object sculptures that are currently on view at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. The exhibition, dubbed “Studio Practice,” features a recreated version of Parker’s studio until October 5 (you can also see artist Joseph Burwell’s work space in “School of the Viking Spaniard Revisited”). But tomorrow, September 26, is your chance to hear Parker give a free artist talk in the Simons Center at 6 p.m. before a reception in the Halsey Institute galleries. Is your interest piqued? Get to know a bit more about the sculptor as he speaks to us about his studio work and more.

Inside the artist's studio: My studio practice is very different from my nature-based work. This body of work is object-oriented, often humorous, and employs a variety of materials.

What it's all about: The ideas and issues I’ve been exploring for the past decade are concerned with interpersonal relationships, particularly male/female/family interactions and the expectations and antagonisms inherent in those affiliations. This work more accurately reflects the excitement and frustrations of day-to-day existence than the more ethereal environmental constructions.

Talking heads: The studio work I have been creating over the last few months is about dialogue, in a sense. Two large heads rest on towers with rockers. A chain is connected to the heads. A viewer can pull the chain and the figures appear to communicate.

On the exhibit: The space within the Halsey will be a good indication of what my studio looks like and perhaps give some insight into what stimuli drive the work. I like to be surrounded by interesting shapes, textures, and objects, and the juxtaposition of these components often suggests an interesting perspective.

Dumpster diving: I’ve always been a pack rat. I can’t pass a dumpster without peeking in.

Ultimate discovery: In the late ’80s, I was working as a day laborer tearing down an old warehouse with a sledgehammer. I punched a hole through a wall, looked in, and saw hundreds of figures of adults and children hanging from the roof. It was a surreal moment, beautiful and eerie. They were old plaster mannequins from the ’40s or ’50s. I saved a truckload, but the others were destroyed with the building.

His latest installation: I created Artpark Dialogue as part of Artpark’s “40 For 40: Alumni Artists 40th Anniversary Celebration.” A thatched-roof building with stone walls, it suggests a Neolithic structure with a contemporary Asian interior composed of an open-air courtyard with stone seating. It’s a quiet place to contemplate or have a conversation. It is a dialogue with history, culture, and community.

For more details on “Studio Practice” as well as Parker’s artist talk—which will be held in room 309 of the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St.—click here.

For more stories on local artists, click here.