About

I come from a working class family. My Italian-American father served in World War II and held various jobs; he found real joy in being an amateur magician. My Irish-American mother was a nurse; she was remarkably kind. I had a solitary childhood growing up in the woods of Pennsylvania. In Catholic Catechism class I was enthralled by prints of Renaissance paintings and manuscript illuminations on the walls. Pictures captured my imagination early on, and I was so captivated by the images in storybooks that I would get lost in them and fall behind while a story was being read to me. As a child I loved to paint and draw and won a contest in my Catechism class with my painting of Christ on the Cross. My prize was a small statue of the Virgin Mary that glowed in the dark.

The ability to transmute matter from the chemical substance of paint into illusions on canvas that bedazzle and convey meaning is magical. It has always been the way for me to bring back early experiences in childhood of a deep and visceral engagement with the world. It has also been a way for me as an adult to speak to what it is like to live in this time when the natural world is under serious threat…a world where birds fly into skyscrapers, where male birds attempt to lay eggs, where the Sunday edition of the New York Times weighs as much as twelve pounds, where a man goes fishing, throws his cigarette into the river and the river explodes. And it has been a way for me to explore lesser-known and tragic history: the invisibility of women in domestic service (The Maid’s Project), of “fallen women” condemned to repent for their “sins” by the Catholic Church (The Magdalene Laundries), and of women mistakenly diagnosed as insane and sent to asylums (A Girl Mad as Birds).

And there is a solace if we dare believe it. The creation of beauty or art out of even the greatest of tragedies is in some manner the only way we can bare history.” – Bill T. Jones

For as long as I can remember I have been an artist but for a short time I considered becoming a ballerina. My ballet instructor took me aside and politely told me I would never have the skills. So I have sometimes included dance in several of my projects. And along the way, I have had many jobs, including factory worker and recreation assistant at a mental hospital. I was a maid while an art student and the experience of going back and forth from being a servant to an artist led me to ask why it is women who “wash and mend and daydream the world” (The Maid’s Project). The paintings of Caravaggio, Rogier van der Weyden and the visions of William Blake and Walt Whitman…the light from glass dishes made in the factory where my grandfather worked…portraits where the eyes seem to follow the spectator around the room… the nature writing of Rachel Carson…images of birds, fruit, small objects in nature, and their perfect and simple geometry that speak their own language as powerful symbols have found their way into my iconography. I taught English to refugees for many years and it has had a powerful impact on my life. I constantly wonder how those from a very different culture see my work; I long for a bridge.

I have never set out to change painting or Art: I think it has always been a way for me to change myself. I strive for a deep attentiveness to a subject so that it might inhabit me, sharpen my perception and guide my craft sense so that this altered condition can be seen in the work. I want my work to be a visceral, conceptual and emotional experience all at once. By placing text and metaphorical objects alongside paintings in an installation format, I work to create an environment that poses questions, and deepens, widens and finally transforms perception. Kafka reminds us, Art “must be the axe for the frozen sea within us”. The world needs to be transformed and Art can play a powerful role. It can connect us in ways that invite and compel us to act.

No painted image of a bird gone extinct will bring it back. No painted image of a woman silenced and condemned to a mental asylum or Magdalene Laundry will resurrect her. No art object can create justice. But if Art invokes a form of transformation, and can awaken something deep inside of us, it is important for the artist to – not speak for others – but instead imagine what those rendered mute would say if they could. The poet Czeslaw Milosz spoke of openness to what is ordinary and right in front of us and to the idea that the purpose of art is to “remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.”

Cheryl Parry

Education

1975 Ivan Novikoff School of Ballet in Portland, Oregon – classes in Ballet

1978 University of California at San Diego, BA in Visual Arts

1984 Apprenticeship in Art Conservation with Alfredo Antognini, Balboa Art Conservation Center, San Diego – CA

Selected exhibitions

2018 A Girl Mad as Birds, solo exhibition, The Clemente, New York – NY

2012 The Magdalene Laundries, collaboration of paintings, installation, film with dance & theatrical monologue, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, New York – NY

2012 Triangle Fire Open Archive Museum, ongoing community archive to tell the story of the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911, New York – NY

2011 No Comment, Pop-Up Art group exhibition for Loft in the Red Zone, J.P. Morgan Building, New York – NY

2010 Maid with Wallpaper Wings, three-person exhibition entitled “The Invisible Woman”, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, New York – NY

2010 Artists’ Books – The Fiction Project, group exhibition of artists’ books, Brooklyn Art Library, Brooklyn – NY

2007 The Cloths of Heaven, solo multi-media exhibition for San Diego Public Library Visual Arts Program, Mission Valley Library, San Diego – CA

2006 Pure Painting, group exhibition for San Public Library Visual Arts Program, Earl & Birdie Taylor Library / Gallery, San Diego – CA

2005 The Altar Project, group exhibition for San Public Library Visual Arts Program, Earl & Birdie Taylor Library / Gallery, San Diego – CA

2004 The Magdalene Laundries, two-person exhibition @ Mira Costa College Gallery, San Diego – CA

2004 Maids & the Magdalene Laundries, solo exhibition for San Public Library Visual Arts Program, Mission Valley Library / Gallery, San Diego – CA

2003 The Maid’s Project, solo exhibition, California State University at San Marcos, San Marcos – CA

2002 Transformations, three-person exhibition, Southwestern College Art Gallery, Chula Vista – CA

2001 An Illuminated Riddle & Nature Studies, solo exhibition for San Public Library Visual Arts Program, Earl & Birdie Taylor Library / Gallery, San Diego – CA

2000 I am a Still-Life Looking, solo exhibition @ Debra Owen Gallery, San Diego – CA

2000 Art is Alive, annual fundraiser and group exhibition of selected art from local artists with arrangements by floral designers, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego – CA

2000 Painters for the Millennium: Twelve Important San Diego Artists, group exhibition for San Public Library Visual Arts Program, Earl & Birdie Taylor Library / Gallery, San Diego – CA

1998 One-Hundred Birds That Sound Like Bells, mural, the ReinCarnation Building, San Diego – CA

1998 Auguries of Innocence & Ecology, two-person exhibition, Sushi Performance & Visual Art, San Diego – CA

1995 In the Garden & at the Table (for Rachel Carson), solo exhibition, San Diego Central Library for 25th Anniversary of Earth Day, San Diego – CA

1993 Speaking with Whitman, solo exhibition to mark the centennial of the death of the poet Walt Whitman, California State University, San Marcos – CA

1992 Art in Public Spaces, Illan-Lael Foundation group exhibition, San Diego City Planning Department site, San Diego – CA

1992 Insite 92, Installation Gallery bi-national group exhibition of installations, San Diego – CA & Tijuana – Mexico

1992 Transcending Borders, Illan-Lael Foundation bi-national group exhibition @ Lyceum Theater Gallery, San Diego – CA & Tijuana Cultural Center, Tijuana – Mexico

Visual art/dance/performance

2012 The Magdalene Laundries (The Cloths of Heaven), collaboration of paintings, installation, film, dance & monologue, Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, New York – NY

2006 The Magdalene Laundries, Mission Valley Library, San Diego – CA

2005 The Magdalene Laundries, Celebrate Dance Festival, San Diego – CA

2005 The Magdalene Laundries, Stage 7 Studio of Dance & Ray @ Night Monthly Art Celebration, San Diego – CA

2005 The Magdalene Laundries, Grossmont College, El Cajon – CA

2004 The Magdalene Laundries, Sushi Performance and Visual Art, San Diego – CA

2004 The Magdalene Laundries, Celebrate Dance Festival, San Diego – CA

2003 The Maid’s Project, California State University at San Marcos, San Marcos – CA

Film

2012 The Cloths of Heaven (The Magdalene Laundries) – non-documentary version

2006 The Cloths of Heaven (The Magdalene Laundries) – documentary version

Stipends & Grants

2011 Puffin Foundation Grant (The Magdalene Laundries)

2004 San Diego Public Library Visual Arts Program Stipend (The Altar Project)

2003 Puffin Foundation Grant (The Maid’s Project/The Magdalene Laundries)

2003 California State University at San Marcos Artist’s Stipend (The Maid’s Project)

1998 City of San Diego Arts Stipend – Outdoor Mural (One Hundred Birds That Sound Like Bells)

My paintings are in the city of San Diego permanent collection as well as private collections. Email me for a complete list of exhibitions or more information.

Cheryl Parry All Rights Reserved. © 2018