A sense of place on the plains

Eastern Colorado inspires Denver artist Charles Parson

Posted

“In this drawing series `Near/Far’ I have gone back to what had become my favorite places and discovered new ones ...” Denver artist Charles Parson writes. “I am excited to put in place the act, as an artist, of making full circle back to a reestablishment of my originating reason to move out West in 1974. This is the horizon of the western landscape. Of all the artistic methods I have used over the years to express the human condition in its singularity on this vast horizon of the West, drawing, at this seventh decade of my life, is now the most cherished way for me to speak.”

Parson, who is also recognized for large, abstract sculptures, is staging a one-person exhibit through Feb. 26 at Curtis Center for the Arts in Greenwood Village.

“The choice of sight observation drawings, using marks made in pencil on small paper is a point of departure for me to speak to the poetics of the immense open space of the Eastern High Plains of Colorado ... and our individual, fragile place in both its space and time.”

Parson has installed a beautiful exhibit of small, site-specific drawings, large dimensional drawings (two feet by six feet) and smaller interior sculptures at Curtis Center for the Arts. Drawings were created in the past year and a half.

This unique gallery in a historic red brick schoolhouse offers year-round, varied exhibits, as well as art classes for children and adults during normal times.

It’s grand to be able to visit and enjoy an hour or so of quiet time immersed in Parson’s world.

He sits outside along the side of country roads, drawing small works on paper, then returns to his studio to create the larger, more formal drawings. While he is onsite, he also writes comments, “site notes,” about the shapes of terrain, the never-really- green grass, rocks and weather — and on occasion, the folks who pass by. “Immediate thoughts notated during this drawing process (NEAR) speak to some of the technical, visual, pictorial and artistic decisions of the process of making each site observation study. As well, references to triggered awareness, memories and associations are cued (FAR).”

Before he departs from the day’s chosen site, he usually takes the time to write about associations and memories — unless lightning threatens — or a deluge unloads on him. The prairie stretches we’ve perhaps driven across too fast speak to this artist. Kiowa, Elbert, Walsenburg and farther east toward Limon. How many of us who have lived in Colorado for years have really focused on this land? I’m certain I’ll be much more aware and open to impressions now that I’ve read his book that accompanies the exhibit ... there’s a whole, subtle set of sensibilities awaiting a receptive soul ...

Parson says this book is intended for his young grandchildren to read in 20 years. In addition to describing the land that draws him back repeatedly, it will tell them a good bit about this particular man’s finely-honed sensibilities ... the terrain, wind, weather and vegetation speak distinctive languages.

Each site has a “sight observation drawing,” completed as Parson sits in his folding chair, with paper, pencil and hot coffee.

“I wasn’t lost, but I wasn’t where I thought I was ... again. ... I parked my little grey car on the abrupt shoulder of this wide dirt road, just as the road started a major drop as it headed toward the east valley. I would project this drop as being at least a thousand feet ... a surprise years ago and a joy today. This was a familiar dirt road from my cycling days 45 years ago ... I was searching for more than a view. I was looking for a unique, contemplative place.”

In the past few years, Parson has visited many such places and recorded their unique qualities. This exhibit and book allow one to visit with him ... and think about it.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, public events frequently are canceled or rescheduled. Check with organizers before you go.

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.