Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kim Parr Studio on Main Street

I Can't Return To"

On the window of her studio at 8358 Main Street, in Ellicott City, artist Kim Parr has placed in simple lettering HO CO MOA…an acronym for Howard County Museum of Art. I laughed when she told me; however, the serious intent of her work is anything but amusing. Witnessing continual loss and change locally, she says, "My paintings are elegies to the farms and woods of my neighborhood."

Kim Parr received a BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1984 and an MFA in painting from Yale University in 2001. Her paintings document the changing American landscape, with a particular focus on real estate development. In her images, the Romantic belief in the divinity of nature meets the Realist observation of progress through consumption.

Kim writes:

I am interested in painting the changing American landscape, with a particular focus on real estate development because it is constant, current, and surprising in a disappointing way. It intrudes upon the places we live, in both memory and real time. I understand the importance and necessity of housing and shopping malls, but very often these new additions are ill placed. Poor planning makes them feel incongruous, awkward and imposed upon the landscape. I find this lack of continuity or odd juxtaposition unsettling, curious, funny, and sad. I make paintings about this. Shown above is a drug store prescription drive-in with a historic farmhouse on an intact rural landscape in the background. The juxtaposition is jarring.

My paintings continue the tradition of American landscape painting. I am influenced by the Luminists and the Hudson Bay painters. I am also drawn to the power conceptual art has had in actively engaging its audience. I am wondering what relevancy traditional landscape painting can have in the aftermath of conceptual rule. Conceptual art dictates that the idea of the artist is more important than the product made by the artist. Why not have the idea and the product equally important?

The overriding theme of this body of work is the encroachment of man upon nature. My neighborhood and surrounding counties are in the process of changing from farmland and woods to major housing developments and strip malls. A quintessential element of the American landscape has been its boundless space, its magnitude of space. Nowhere in my neighborhoods of Baltimore and Howard County can I directly encounter this. Always, there is the interruption of real estate development.

Something beyond the picturesque has been parceled for consumption. A piece of American identity has gone. I paint about the loss, the process, and the result in hopes that the images will raise some questions, e.g., what are these new developments saying about our relationship with nature?
Are there any ethical responsibilities with developers, architects and consumers regarding the changes being made to the environment? Will we regret our disregard for nature?

Finally, Kim concludes:

- I choose to paint the landscape in the romantic tradition of Martin Johnson Heade and Frederick Church, including their philosophy of divinity found in nature. But in my paintings nature has been affected by man.

- I choose to present my work in the format of a series like Sol Lewitt and Hilla and Bernd Becher. This offers the opportunity for comparison and contrast and it allows me to include the elements of time and change.

You can visit Kim Parr's Studio by appointment or by chance. e-mail:; telephone: 410-313-9735. Be sure to go to Kim's web site at to see her portfolio. Kim's work will be featured in an exhibition at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, in Spring 2009. Web page content and photos by Kay Weeks.

Please be sure to visit Jeremy Kipp Clark's comprehensive web site on Historic Ellicott City at:

1 comment:

Eva Shaw said...

Love the site and Kim's work is incredible. Thanks for sharing. Eva