By Alexandria Woolfe
On Thursday Apr. 28, the Brooklyn College Department of Judaic Studies, along with a slew of other departments, hosted a panel-led discussion of Brooklyn-based artist Paula Walters Parker’s art titled “Stories Where We Fit.” In anticipation of the event, Parker displayed her pieces throughout the Brooklyn College Library’s lobby for everyone to take in. Her principal goal was to show on canvas “the lack of Black bodies in traditional art narratives.”
Other panelists in attendance were Rosamond S. King, an English and Women & Gender Studies professor at Brooklyn College, along with Akima McPherson, an art professor at the University of Guyana. King and McPherson formulated personal questions about Parker’s work and how it aligned with their personal creations, even the ones that aren’t paintings.
Many of Walter Parker’s pieces reflect routines in Black life such as her poem “Black Coffee, No Sugar, No Cream,” a title she connects to the late rapper Heavy D. This connection sparks a happy memory along with a few familiar flavors and sounds for the artist, she explained.
Much of the materials the Brooklynite uses to create art includes everyday things in combination with artistic materials, such as coffee stains and ink. Walters Parker also uses vivid imagery, drawing from familiar tastes and smells like curry and coconut for observers to almost submerge themselves in the world she creates on canvas.
Professor King, like the other panelists, noted that she views Walters Parker’s art in the uniquely Caribbean eye that the women use to express their creativity daily.
King also connected the emotions she felt during her observations of Walters Parker’s paintings to two pieces of her own: a poem titled “Rock Salt Stone” and an excerpt from her new book “All The Rage.”
Parker then added a remarkable connection between music and her art, admitting that she is heavily inspired by music, even taking titles from other songs such as “Them Their Eyes”.
The artists then delved into a bit of her creative process, using the term “layering” to answer King’s question about the range of colors from bottom to top usually found on her canvases.
“Layering is definitely a language that I use in the work that I create,” Parker reflected. “For me a lot about everything that I’ve done is about history and I always want to kind of conjure up that feeling of the way history happens in the work of art where you don’t really get a chance to choose what’s happening when and things just build on top of each other.”
McPherson was able to share her thoughts about the art pieces as well, bouncing off of King’s emotions and the concepts by stating that as an artist who remained home for the majority of her work, the tastes and smells are almost unachievable for her.
McPherson also briefly talked about how abstract and intriguing the materials that Parker uses are.
“I don’t even think about it as in ‘this material that could be elevated to art,’ you know?,” said McPherson. “People talk about up-cycling and so on, but they never really think about it as something that you eat going to my canvas. You are painting with curry powder!”
Parker’s art appears dedicated to her roots as a Black and Jewish Jamaican immigrant, especially as she finds use in household items to deliver her deepest thoughts and feelings.