Atlanta artist Sam Parker is a busy guy: when hes not making local bodies more ink-tastic at East Atlanta Tattoo or showing college kids whats what by winning the Creative Loafing Cover Contest, hes one of Atlantas most active gallery participants. In the last year and a half alone, hes had two solo exhibitions, completed his MFA at Georgia State University, been a part of 3 blow-out gallery collaborations, and taken part in numerous gallery shows and not one of these things has shown any lack of depth or commitment. Parkers work gives you the unmistakable feeling that each piece is the most important work hes created (and looking at his CV gives you the unmistakable feeling that youre kinda lazy.)
Ahead of the April 10 opening of his show at Kibbee Gallery, Journey, Memory and Myth, we caught up with this lovely art maniac to talk about the difference between collaborative and solo art shows, being social on the art scene, and doing damage with battle-axes.
Among other things, you recently had a solo show at Beep Beep Gallery, plus your MFA thesis show, and also took part in a collaborative show with Joe Tsambiras and the Paper Twins at MINT Gallery how to do feel about the process of creating a show alone as opposed to working with other people? Which do you prefer?
Regarding solo shows, group shows and collaborative projects: I enjoy doing all three. I dont see any one as being more valid or important than any other, each has become part of my art making process. Over the last eight years shows have become a large motivating factor for creating work (though not the only factor).
Group shows are generally dictated by the curators theme (super heroes, birds, American consumer culture etc ). If I get excited about a curators theme for a show I am participating in, I see it as a challenge almost a puzzle. The subject matter is not something that I would engage if left to my own devices. I see it as a way to expand my visual vocabulary.
Collaborative projects can be similarly motivating, playing off of another persons energy and ideas. To date, [the] Majestic Hours collaboration with Joe Tsambiras has been my most fulfilling collaborative project. The most important thing with collaboration is building dialogue with other creative people. I learn things all the time from other people; its easy to get stuck in a rut working by your-self all the time. The hardest thing to learn about collaborating is where to draw the line between your ego and the ego of your collaborator, and then when the project is completed to let it go. Collaborations are strange because they dont belong to any singular person participating in the project. They exist on a ground in between individuals and I think that area is exciting.
Developing a body of work for a solo show is another process entirely, for the most part I react to my environment. Working in tattoo shops, writing graffiti, reading books, or even a conversation with a friend will send me off in a particular direction. There is more responsibility in solo work. The I factor is much greater; this is how I communicate with the world, this is what I am saying. For solo shows I think a lot about my audience at the front end of the project, establishing what I want to communicate to them during the first few pieces. Then as the project progresses I forget about audience focusing on the parameters I have set for the work, and work diligently until I achieve a sense of completion. Solo shows are a little bit scarier than group or collaborative shows where I am sharing the responsibility of the overall presentation and message that we intended the show to convey. With a solo show I dont feel that I can hide behind anyone else if the work is in someway not fulfilling to myself or to my audience. Fortunately I feel that most of the shows I have participated in whether group, collaborative, or solo have been successful by my standards of success.
In Here We Hide at MINT Gallery, we saw some kick-ass sculptural work you did, which we dont see often from you. How did you feel about how it came out? Are we going to see more of that from you, or will upcoming work be more Sam Parker business-as-usual?
I have worked with the technique of assemblage for almost 20 years. I have also carved mahogany, and sculpted ceramics off and on since childhood. Over the last decade I have predominantly worked two dimensionally painting, drawing and collage. I do have plans to do more assemblage. I want to combine painting with assemblage and have already begun working on several of them. I want to make art that is more interactive where pieces require some level of audience participation. I wont say anymore about that until they come to fruition.
Who are your favorite Atlanta artists right now?
There are too many people to mention. I would have to say that the people I have been showing with over the past five years or so have made a big impact on my work. I really like Karen Clevelands work, and Jessica Blinkhorns work. Borns last solo show at Beep Beep Gallery was really inspiring to me. Im at a bit of a loss for how to talk about favorite Atlanta artists I feel more like I am engaged in this ongoing dialogue with groups of artists locally and we all live off of each others juju.
Youre consistently involved in art shows (solo, collaborative, bigger group shows ) in Atlanta, but unlike a lot of artists, you dont seem too keen to participate in the scene are you slightly misanthropic and just like making art without being an art hipster, or are you just too busy being an artist to sit around and talk about how awesome it is to be an artist?
I have a hard time socializing if the people I am engaged with arent working on the same project that I am. I am an obsessive workaholic. Between the tattoo shop, school and painting I work about 80 hours a week, which leaves very little time for extracurricular social activities. I love making art and feel anxious when I am not; my art is my most comfortable means by which to communicate with the world. Its not that I am misanthropic, but I do enjoy my own company in general to that of others. Socializing feels idle to me; art making and sharing that product with the world is my level of engagement.
I know your parents were both creative folks so far is there any sign that your kid is going to follow in dads footsteps?
My son is very creative, he sculpts both ceramic and plastaline, he draws regularly and plays the trumpet in his middle school band. He talks about growing up to be a tattooist. I support his interest in art all the way.
What shows / projects do you have coming up?
I have a few shows set up after school. In May, I am showing at Peters Street Project, a new gallery in Castleberry district, curated by Mark Karelson. It is a text based project (not sure of the title of the show yet). All of my paintings [for this show] will be graffiti derived. I am working hard on these paintings now and am very excited about the work. I also have a show entitled Journey, Memory and Myth at Kibbee Gallery opening April 10, with Jessica Orlowski and Stephanie Kolpy. That will be the second showing of my MFA thesis work. It will be up through April 27. I have quite a few other project and shows coming up in 2010.
Question from a fan: "Do you ever want to just walk around with a battle-axe slung over your shoulder? Because you'd look GREAT with one.
If I had a battle-axe, I would fuck shit up. Do you have one I could borrow?
Journey, Memory and Myth opens at Kibbee Gallery April 10, 6 p.m. 10 p.m. www.kibbeegallery.com
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