Dirk and Helen Parsons became artists when they were young.
Helen Parsons was presented with a cigar box filled with sewing paraphernalia when she was 8 and began sewing anything and everything. Her first job was at a fabric store, and textiles became her palette.
Dirk Parsons’ talent for painting was recognized by his high school art teacher, who supplied him with canvases and paints, and it became his passion.
“Creating art makes me feel powerful. I’m bringing something new into the world, something that only exists because of me,” he said. “As a carpenter I sometimes get that same feeling of creation when I work, but for some reason it seems more profound when I create something that has no purpose other than its own beauty.”
By day, Dirk Parsons works as a carpenter, and Helen Parsons works as a retail manager. The couple live across the street from Manito Park in a house that belonged to Dirk Parsons’ grandfather. They have done some work to the house since they moved in eight years ago from California, including the addition of galvanized steel on the kitchen walls and the small mudroom, and a hallway gallery and large working studio in the basement.
In the studio, Helen Parsons shreds fabric, destroying it so she can reconstruct it in a manner that suits her. “The destruction and rebuilding part of my process in fiber art comes from my desire to understand the inner workings of everyday life and things,” she said.
She takes the frayed fabric and “paints” with it on a sheet of water-soluble stabilizer, laying it out to form colorful shapes and designs. When she is finished with the initial concept, she lays another sheet of stabilizer on top to hold it all together and she sews it all in place. She then submerges the piece in water to dissolve the water-soluble stabilizer. She adds appliqués and detailed thread work and often goes back and fluffs the fabric to give it more texture. The final pieces are organic-looking landscapes, realistic with abstract elements, trees, birds and vortexes of color.
Dirk Parsons’ paintings are also vortexes of color, fractured yet contained. He begins with a large canvas, haphazardly applying color and then defining shapes in black and highlighting in white. The effect is almost like stained glass and contains dozens of hidden images, abstract with realistic elements.
“It’s like there is a hidden beauty that I’m revealing as I paint,” he said. “Kind of like reading a book, the story is already written but it is revealed as you read. Seeing how the story ends motivates you to read on. Painting is like that for me. I may have some idea how the ‘story’ will end but I really didn’t know until I reach the end. It is the joy of discovery that pushes me to create.”
The couple have shown their work in California and are emerging as artists in the Spokane area. Dirk Parsons shows at Ink to Media in Spokane Valley and is the guest artist at Pottery Place Plus, 203 N. Washington St. through May. Helen Parsons will be featured there through June.
“Even if I knew that no one would ever see my art, I know that I would still create art. When I paint, there is this exciting feeling of discovery,” Dirk Parsons said. His wife added, “It seems like so many people want to tune out the world, and all I want to do is tune in.”
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