Artist Michael Parker opens up on his success and how BYU impacted him in a Q&A
Many art students dream of getting their own exhibit, and now students at BYU can look to design professor Michael Parker as an example of how to do so. Parker’s work is currently featured in the Covey Center Gallery in Downtown Provo. Parker shares his experiences getting his work into a gallery, the inspiration behind his art, how his BYU education has affected his career and advice for aspiring artists.
Q: What was the process like getting an exhibit in the Covey Center? What was your
reaction to getting it up?
A: It actually was not too hard. With the Covey Center, they are always looking for artists to show in their gallery spaces. Their gallery spaces are nice, and they have a variety of crowds come through. My wife and I contacted their offices to see if my work would fit their venue. I was close to finishing this group of paintings that is being shown there, and we were looking around at different venues. It was exciting and rewarding to finally get it finished and have a place to put it up so I could share it with others.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your gallery exhibit. What inspired the pieces in your exhibit? Is there a theme to them?
A: This group of paintings is based on the works of John William Waterhouse. I wanted to use the themes found in his work as well as the compositions to inspire my own paintings. I also wanted to use a single model for the different pieces to create cohesion and unity among the paintings. I met Amber, who had a similar look to some of the women Waterhouse used in his paintings, and she ended up being a great fit for this project.
Waterhouse explored some of the great classical myths, and I wanted to draw inspiration from those same myths, but put my own ideas and experiences into them. Many of the paintings deal with being an artist, with motherhood or parenthood, and the relationship of being both. I allowed personal experience to drive the theme of each painting as much as possible. I feel that many of the paintings are left open for interpretation by the viewer, allowing them to see the work through the lens of their own experiences and biases.
I also included smaller black and white studies and color studies of the finished paintings. I wanted to show some of the process that I went through in the creation of the work.
Q: What kind of experience do you hope people will have when they attend your exhibit?
A: I hope, for one, that they can appreciate the paintings as interesting imagery. I also hope the viewers can revisit or learn about the mythology as well as dive into the stories of each painting. I like to imagine that the images can spark the imagination of the viewer, allowing them to think about things in a new way.
Q: You majored in illustration at BYU. What did you learned that influenced your career as an artist?
A: Everything! My major was in the arts so I was able to really develop fundamental art-making skills. I was an illustration major and learned a lot about making an interesting picture and telling a story through images. It was here at BYU that I learned about being persistent as an artist, to stick with it and just continue to do the work.
Q: What would you say to students who are also hoping to have their art showcased in a gallery one day?
A: Keep making your work and continue to practice the fundamentals. This hones your craft and you learn about who you are as an artist. It takes time to develop, so learn as much as you can along the way. Find mentors and develop friendships with other artists that can help you and give you feedback along the way. Opportunities will present themselves, but sometimes you might have to generate those opportunities yourself.