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Graydon Parrish

 (born 1970)
Graydon Parrish is active/lives in Massachusetts.  Graydon Parrish is known for nude figure drawings.

Graydon Parrish

Biography from the Archives of askART

Contemporary painter Graydon Parrish, a Tyler, Texas, native, was one of the only students accepted at the Dallas Arts Magnet school in his senior year of high school. He then attended the Richard Lack Atelier in Minneapolis, and went on to immerse himself in the French Academic style at the New York Academy of Art. After graduating from the Academy in 1990, he apprenticed for several years with Academy professor Michael Aviano, a noted academic painter, and then enrolled at Amherst College in 1994 as a 24-year-old first year student. Graydon speaks fluent French and travels each year to Paris to study the works of the "Old Masters" in the many museums.

William Adolph Bouguereau (1825-1905) and the other principal leaders of the French Academy are the main influence in Graydon's work. Their dedication and work ethics are the driving force behind this young artist. These great teachers of the 19th century believed that talent is important but an education and hard work are paramount to the success of a serious painter.

In speaking of his work, Parrish says: "Only through the most arduous study can one create art. Each picture I paint is based on thorough research in the science of light, form, and technique as well as the study of the old masters. This attention to craftsmanship is in marked contrast to the modern movement in art where unconscious paint splatters and runny dribbles have given way to more and more gimmicks and perversions. In my opinion, ideas are better expressed through clarity and beauty. They should invite contemplation, not horrify nor disgust the viewer.

My education, therefore, has been idiosyncratic. Unable to find complete training available to the old masters, I have orchestrated my own program of learning combining quality academics with the guidance of present-day 'old masters'. For example, my artistic training from my principal teacher Michael Avaino derives from the French Academy. Amherst College, in addition, has helped me hone skills in literature, art, history, biology and French: each informing the pictures that I paint."

At Amherst, Parrish inspired a remarkable move on the part of the college's trustees. On behalf of the institution, a group of trustees purchased the painting 'Remorse, Despondence, and the Acceptance of an Early Death', which Parrish (class of '99) prepared as an independent study project his last two years at the college. The oil painting--10 feet long and four feet high--earned Parrish summa honors and is to be displayed on campus.

An allegory about the AIDS epidemic, Parrish's painting depicts the corpse of a small child, robed in white, being borne down a river on a funerary barge. Three figures join the child on the barge; each is a personification of a stage of the grieving process. Another figure pulls the barge, which is embellished with dead doves, flowers and a red ribbon.

The painting is striking both in its realism and its use of symbolism. The five characters in the painting are modeled on real people--most of them from the Amherst community--and every element of the painting has a symbolic function. The flowers--white roses and anemone--have a religious connotation of death and resurrection; the doves, while signs of peace, are also signs of disease and plague.

Parrish explains that he wanted to work in a style in which figure painting is the highest form of art, and that he hoped the focus of his painting would be on the story the work tells, not the brushwork, color, or other technical elements of execution. "It's a French academic idiom that's been overshadowed lately," Parrish says, "but I've found it to be a valuable medium."

William R. Mead Professor of Fine Arts Robert Sweeney, who worked with Parrish on his independent study project, says that 'Remorse, Despondence, and the Acceptance of an Early Death' "transcends the notion of pastiche. Graydon's technique is very powerful and accomplished, but one of the painting's real accomplishments is that it achieves a level of emotion that's consistent with the subject matter," Sweeney notes. "Graydon is really playing off the French academic style, bringing the language forward and reinventing the technique."

The inspiration for the painting was both intensely personal and firmly grounded in art history. Parrish began work on the painting early in 1997. "I'd had an AIDS test, as a lot of young people are counseled to do these days," he explains. "And the two-week wait [for the results of the test] was a sort of pilgrimage, as I imagined my life going in two very different directions." While dealing with a contemporary subject, Parrish was committed to creating a work that drew on the classical tradition. "I wanted the painting to have a relationship with art history, to demonstrate how plagues have been represented in art in the past. The work incorporates many traditional images of plagues and disease, as well as the river of life."

Parrish says that preparing the painting as an independent study project allowed him great freedom to experiment with both subject and style. "I have done something sad, but also something that I hope people will find beautiful," he says. "It's a work that's both celebratory and austere."

Parrish says that in painting 'Remorse, Despondence, and the Acceptance of an Early Death', he came to a better understanding of his own feelings about AIDS. In developing the work, "I spent a lot of time meditating, studying, reading poetry, thinking about what AIDS meant to me. I knew the painting couldn't answer everyone's questions about AIDS, but I wanted it to answer my own. And I came out of [the process] feeling quite alive, whereas I'd felt suffocated before. It focused me back on art and on my own love of art as a career. It helped me find my voice."

Parrish's work has been included in the volume 'The Eloquent Line: Master Drawings by Christopher Gallego, Nancy Lawton, and Graydon Parrish' published by Hirshl Adler.

Parrish continues to live and paint in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he has a studio downtown.

Credit for the above information is given to the Tyler Museum of Art webpage and to the Amherst College website, and the Roughton Gallery website.
The following is a periodical citation for Graydon Parrish:

Forbes Global
June 12, 2000
"Short Chagall, go long Parrish"
Gregory Hedberg

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About  Graydon Parrish

Born:  1970
Known for:  nude figure drawings

Essays referring to
Graydon Parrish

Painters of Nudes