Liz Parkinson is a Port Hope, ON, based artist whose work hangs in private and public galleries across Canada and internationally. She is an interpreter of our natural world, a teacher, a collector of things and a magnificent print artist, combinning dry point etching, wood cuts, lithography, stenciling and painting.Grapevine Magazine was able to interview her and here is what she had to say.
Q. Who are your artistic influences and why?
A: I think my parents really instilled in me an appreciation for the environment. We lived surrounded by growing things. My mother, a war-bride, emphasized the importance of saving, making something new with what one had and taking care of those few reminders of home. In my artwork, I look at the environment through the eyes of a collector who finds and names objects for display and their potential in personal narratives. I am in awe of beautifully rendered natural history prints and love the colourful layered images of artists like Judy Pfaff and Robert Kushner.
Q: When is the ideal time for you to create?
A: I teach each spring term so much of my energy and creativity during the winter and spring is channeled into inspiring my students. By July, I’m back in the studio and work until the following January. I am a morning person and like to get to my studio early. I may work until late in the evening if all is going well, but I feel if I can get into the studio in the morning, I can more happily address paperwork or other routine art chores later in the day—or I can go outside and explore!
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
A: My inspiration comes from walking and reading, thinking and drawing. I collect things I find in the environment—bits of natural and manufactured detritus, sticks and stones, insects. I have a trove of guidebooks that I pore over, many photos of local plants, groupings of words and a growing menagerie of small, pathetic ceramic animals. I read settler’s journals (Catherine Parr Trail’s The Backwoods of Canada is a perennial favourite), critical theory pertaining to memory and collection and texts concerning ecological changes. I love going to garage sales and auctions for the surprise finds that enrich my understanding.
Q: Why do you feel compelled to create?
A: Making art is a way of exploring ideas and thinking through problems. When I am immersed in my work, I am happy. Time passes. I have a sense of connectedness—flow. Being within my work energizes me, calms and centres me. I have control over this world of ideas and making.
Q: What’s up next for you as an artist and as a person? Do you have any personal aspirations, artwork challenges, exhibitions or projects?
A: I am focused on returning to my Port Hope studio.I am reemerging after several years of caring for an aging parent and then having to deal with estate matters. I built a new studio and completed the long-term project of building a winter home in Mexico.
In the last couple of years, I have exhibited Herbarium Hierlooms, delicate Japanese paper bedspreads using the pre-photographic technique of nature printing. Spread (Queen Anne’s Lace), Blanket (Briar Rose Counterpane) and Cover (Succory Ticking) are queen-sized printspieced together from images created by pressing inked plant parts onto a litho stone.
Many smaller works spring from the nurturing of these larger projects. Evening Spread, aprint portfolio piece for 2013′s Boundless and Borderless, an exchange with artists from Australia, and which later traveled to Scotland and Korea in 2014, incorporated an impression of Queen Anne’s Lace from Spread.
Q: And, finally, to borrow from James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio television program: If heaven exists, what would you like God to say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
A: I studied the history of gardens and the idea of paradise for my master’s degree. From this perspective, in many cultures, God would say: “Welcome Home. All is forgiven. Here you will find all you have lost and all you desired.” My paradise would include a rolling Ontario field of wildflowers with a stand of trees in the distance and a lake beyond.