*naked*

Art for every body on display at Color of Energy gallery

By Brittany Erwin

Photo: Parrish’s untitled nude figure calls viewers to confront the female form

Is the ideal female body tall and long-limbed? Short and curvaceous? Voluptuous with soft, fleshy rolls? For artist Parrish, it’s all of the above. Parrish, a recent graduate of the University of Dayton, has made normalizing women’s bodies central to her work. Focusing on the female form in all shapes and sizes, Parrish’s art emphasizes that if an ideal exists, all women embody it.

Her latest exhibition, *naked*, at the Color of Energy gallery through September, consists of drawings, paintings, and prints that expand upon her body-positive message.

“My pieces are large-scale or ranging in scale because they are intimate or blatant confrontations,” she says. “You have to confront the female form, not in a sexual way, but in a sensual way, and even if you feel uncomfortable…you can harness your power and feel comfortable in yourself.” This seems a bold proclamation given that nakedness typically occurs within the private rather than public sphere.

Parrish thrives on that close-up intimacy with her work and hopes viewers do, too. When asked why she makes figurative art, she was candid: “All people like looking at people. We like photographs. We like to watch people perform. We’re always looking at each other or admiring, you know? I’ve always been a literal person, so I’ve always just liked figurative art.” Yet, Parrish hopes her work sparks not only admiration, but contemplation and empowerment of the female form. “I think my work is contributing in what I hope is a shift in perception of what a woman can and can’t be,” she says.

Viewing the art, one feels voyeuristic but not predatory. When questioned how this work succeeds at empowering rather embarrassing viewers, Parrish muses, “Your body can be yours, and you can do what you want with it. You can be that calm, poised person or you can be as flamboyant or as crazy as you want. You can harness your womanhood and you can be however you want.” These figures are striking because of, rather than in spite of, the differences. Why should real bodies be viewed any differently?

Like the female figures they depict, the drawings are a variety of shapes and sizes. They are startlingly realistic but in a range of unexpected tones and colors. “I wanted to make a subtle enough distinction that it wasn’t just figure representation or just bodies,” Parrish says.
“I wanted it to invoke energy and empowerment. If you see a bunch of bright colors, you feel happy and [it’s] different enough from what you usually see and very expressive, but still realistic.” And, these figures are electric, pulsing with life, color, and energy.

Yet, none of the figures have a distinctive face, an intentional  decision Parrish made:

“It was a very blatant truncation. I was only doing torsos for five months and have been slowly adding more of the face into the work. I don’t want it to become about that person specifically. I don’t want it to become another ideal.” Parrish invokes universality—this is every woman—through strategic anonymity. So, she left the works in this exhibition untitled: “I think the title could make it more about the wording than the piece…I just want it to be about women and womanhood rather than tying it to specific people or ideologies.”

She also recently contributed a drawing of Ida B. Wells to Votes for Women, a Kelsey Projects exhibition in honor of the suffragettes, the women who fought for the right to vote.

Though there are conceptual underpinnings, Parrish creates for everybody. “I really want it to seem open, and I want my art to be something everyone can enjoy, and I don’t want it to have that elite feel. I really want my work to be approachable to every audience.” On the one hand, these are gorgeously realistic, colorful nudes. On the other, the figures represent a push to annihilate the standard forms we typically associate with a feminine ideal. The pieces in *naked* are beautiful to look at yet also provide fodder for those who want to intellectualize. Ultimately, Parrish just wants to make work that matters:

“I want to go beyond just making art, and I like art that is socially active. I like artists who create art and make a social statement. I like feeling like I am doing something or learning or contributing.”

*naked* opens Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. and runs through Sept. 30 at the Color of Energy Gallery, 16 Brown St. in the Oregon District. For more work by Parrish, please visit Parrish-Art.com or find PARRISH on Facebook.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Brittany Erwin at BrittanyErwin@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

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Brittany Erwin
Reach DCP freelance writer Brittany Erwin at BrittanyErwin@DaytonCityPaper.om

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