Fine arts column: Mixed-media exhibit interprets natural world

3:41 PM, Mar. 23, 2011
Written by Jane Laskey, Special to the Times

Courtesy of Liz Parkinson

Canadian artist Liz Parkinson explores the relationship between nature and the objects it inspires in “The Popular Nature Project.”
Her exhibit runs through April 8 in the Gallery Lounge at the College of St. Benedict.
“It’s about how we interpret the world around us by gathering information and how we recognize the natural world through all these interpretations,” Parkinson said.
The exhibit includes 72 mixed media compositions. Birds, bees, flowers and plants are the stars of the show. In some pieces they hover over intricately layered backgrounds.
“I’m trained as a print maker, so even though they’re paintings, there are printed elements in many of them,” Parkinson said. “I may use a background texture or cut up a print to use as a background.”

In other pieces, such as “Wood Paper Bird” or “Finches,” an image is boldly displayed against a backdrop of stark plywood.
“Painting directly on that clear plywood uses that noise, that grain, as part of the overall patterning,” Parkinson said. “Some pieces are heavily worked over and some are kind of floating on this perfect space because the patterning on the surface itself is part of the piece.”
Each 12-inch-by-12-inch unit was created from objects Parkinson collected and painted while traveling in Mexico, Newfoundland and around southern Ontario. One piece titled “Morning Glory” features a plastic doily mounted on plywood.
“I find an object and I’m curious about it,” Parkinson said. “A plastic doily is such a curious thing to me. It references the morning glory, which is the beautiful garden flower but it’s also this horrible, tacky thing as well.”
Parkinson estimates she has about 150 pieces.
“Different images come forward and take precedence” Parkinson said. “Because of the way students and faculty use the space at the College of St. Benedict, I wanted (to create) a dialogue about collections and what people collect.”
Parkinson placed shelves along one wall and invited visitors to build their own collection.
Already the shelves hold pinecones, a taxidermy squirrel, a paint-by-number landscape and a cat skeleton.
Parkinson hopes the exhibit will open visitors’ eyes to the countless recreations of nature that surround them every day.
“I want this project to be really accessible on many, many levels,” Parkinson said. “I want them to see themselves in it. I want people to say, ‘look at all the stuff I have around me’ and think about how we own and understand our environment.”
Gorecki Gallery’s spring break hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, through March 29. Beginning March 31, the gallery will return to 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. For details visit


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