April 10 – MIDLAND – Prior to this spring, Midland artist Don Parks had never seen his paintings in an exhibition on a scale like this.
The wait paid off for the painter as 28 of his artwork are currently on display at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland.
The exhibit, titled Retrospective: Don L. Parks, features paintings of Texas scenes and is currently on display until May 1. The museum hours are from 10:00 to 17:00 from Tuesday to Saturday and free from 14:00 to 17:00 on Sundays.
“I never dreamed I was going to have an exhibit here, but (Museum of the Southwest Curator) Matt (Ward) called me and asked if I was interested in doing an exhibit here,” Parks said. “It was really great to work with the museum and Matt and he was so nice. The way we had to do it was that it was kind of a retrospective exhibition. It means I have to pull some things out of the past.”
For more than 40 years, Parks has translated the majesty of its natural environment into oil on canvas.
After a career as an agricultural economist and trust banker, Parks then turned his attention to recording his environment on canvas.
For 37 years he has practiced the plein air approach to painting, which is an impressionist modality in which the artist works on the spot, faithfully capturing the light, tone and character of the landscape.
Ward talked about Parks’ work.
“Don is a well-known local here in Midland,” Ward said. “He fell in love with painting by looking at art history books and studying the works of the great Impressionists. By observing the images, he developed a desire to paint. As can be seen from the work on display, the chosen subject is the southern landscape “West, especially West Texas and especially the clouds. He’s good with clouds. He owes much of his relationship to clouds from growing up on a farm and riding around in a tractor and looking at the clouds. I think in his work you can look at that he has spent a lifetime observing because his light is very sensitive. “
Parks, along with his wife Minda, grew up in Seymour, a small Texas town located between Abilene and Wichita Falls.
He came from a peasant family, which allowed him prolonged observations of the southwest landscape.
Parks attended college at Texas Tech University when he started painting.
The retrospective of the plein air painter on display explores the career of the Southwestern Impressionist through several decades of work.
A watercolorist for over a decade, Parks has focused on oils since 1985. Parks, who is a man of faith and family, says God’s creation is his inspiration when he goes to the fields to paint.
“I just think sometimes we’re so busy that we don’t think about watching nature and sunsets,” Parks said. “I love painting in Big Bend. I have taken lessons from about seven different professional artists. I have not had formal training in college. I have to admit I’m glad I didn’t because I’m not sure how to teach you the fundamentals of how to paint pictures. The realism is generally no longer taught. “
One person who taught Parks is an Idaho artist who was also a college football player at Chadron State (Neb.) Scott Christensen.
“I did an internship under him,” Parks said. “He’s widely known up there. He’s a football player who got injured in college and thought ‘how am I going to make a living now?’ and he turned out to be one of America’s best landscapers. “
For some of Parks’ larger paintings, he says it could take up to three weeks to make.
“Most likely it varies greatly,” Parks said. “Sometimes, it seems like they paint themselves and some of them think that you will never solve all problems. The best thing to do is to have three (paintings) going on at the same time and if you look at one painting over a period of days and looking at one painting , you will find yourself in a confused situation where you will not see the errors. “
He will also have a mirror behind him as he paints and then he will turn around and see his painting in the reflection, which will help him spot any mistakes he has made.
“The main thing is to get away from (the paintings) for a few days, maybe a week, and then come back and see some of the things you need to fix,” Parks said.
For Ward, Parks’ paintings convey what it feels like to be in the landscape.
“The Hudson River School of Artists was a group of Americans in the 19th century who described that feeling as sublime,” Ward said. “The feeling of when an individual is in this fantastic expanse. When you are faced with nature, you realize how vast creation is. I think Don really conveys that. His paintings are like windows through which we can look. in these incredible views I guess some of us in the region have already been to these places like Big Bend, but he really captures the sights and the feeling of being in the landscape. “
Museum of the Southwest Executive Director Lorie Wesley spoke about the excitement of having Parks’ exhibit on display.
“We are very excited to be celebrating a very successful artist in his hometown,” said Wesley. “Sometimes, people have to get away from where they come from to get the recognition they deserve, so we’re thrilled to honor Don Parks in this way.”
For more information on the Southwestern exhibit and Museum, visit tinyurl.com/4kh79hba