Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beth Parkhill - Fiber and Assemblage

Self-Portrait 2011 (Close Up)
Beth Parkhill

Beth Parkhill
Mpls, MN
MNArtists Profile

Bio~ I am a self-taught fiber and assemblage artist. As a co-founder of Outsiders and Others, a Minneapolis gallery, we featured 400 artists in 4 years (primarily self-taught). When I’m not creating art, I’m working to build a thriving community for social entrepreneurs though Mentor Planet.  Recently, I have been working to foster cultural exchanges between Minneapolis and our sister city of Tours, France.  I live part of the year in small wine making village in France.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I’m compelled to tell stories and engage the viewer to think about their own lives through myths, masks, or memories, which are often self-portraits. I create highly textured objects, collages, books, blankets and clothing using multi-fiber yarns or reused materials, often using natural or synthetic dyes.  Most recently, I have been exploring natural dyes and rust. 
My current project is titled, Money Bags, which was created specifically for the show: Medium of Exchange: The Art of Cash It is another self-portrait. While it is also sculptural, it differs considerably.  My 2011 self-portrait was a crocheted spiral, with memories from the decades woven in. Money Bags is a series of self-portraits, an assemblage of highly diverse objects, which represents various stages of my life.  
Money is so personal and yet how we spend it has huge repercussions on society and the environment.  I didn’t want to criticize anyone directly about how they spend their money. Instead, I wanted to show my own evolution, what I spent money on at different times in my life. Each purse shows what I valued at that point in time, which I hope will encourage the viewer to think about what they value, what they buy, and what they might reconsider.  I hope they will think about social issues, such as the difference between the haves and have-nots, healthy food, male or female priorities, the environment, etc.  
Money Bags isn’t literal; rather, it is both a minimalist view and exaggerated view.  Five purses are filled with samplings or representations of my purchases.  In my very lean teenage years, as the oldest of 7 in a single-parent family, I still find it surprising that I “found” any money and what I perceive now to be the humorous things I purchased: Coke, Snickers bars, jewelry and push-up bras, and pacifiers for my baby sister (who was 16 years younger than I was). There are personal references too, which only someone who knew me would notice, such as featuring my employers — Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop or Northwestern National Bank. My teen years were understandably vastly different from my high-achieving career days, though in some ways my spending habits were even more ridiculous.  You can judge for yourself when you see my enormous overflowing briefcase.
Money Bags: Teen Years

The last purse is aspirational, which portrays the shift I’m undertaking. Crocheted from discarded plastic bags, it’s filled with more sustainable choices and a lifestyle of reusing or “upcycling” before recycling. We don’t always realize that our individual purchases have such a significant collective impact. As “consumers,” we drive roughly 70% of our economy.  Of course, this means I’ve been part of the problem; so I have no right to criticize others.  But I can use art to help people better understand that with every dollar they spend they vote for the society we have.  I hope Money Bags will encourage more conversation.  I hope they will talk about the relative worth of 24/7 workdays (my former lifestyle) and ever increasing levels of consumption.  Perhaps some people will think about taking action toward a greater sense of community, individual and global happiness.  That has been my journey, from poverty to wealth, from immediate family to global community, from bank marketing consultant to social enterprise mentor. Money Bags is my self-portrait, revealing all of my conflicting views and actions; but it less about me, and more about us.
How did you decide to become an artist? 

I’ve always been a collector of sorts (fabrics, yarn, papers, books, and art), inspired by my beatnik mother and her collection of music, books, art, old hand tools, etc. In the early 1960s, we decorated the Christmas tree with nothing more than our handmade origami. In the late 1960s, our kitchen ceiling was a co-created collage made from current magazines, featuring covers of Time or Life with Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Kennedy, and other icons. For decades, I experimented with knitting, sewing, and collages.  More recently, I experimented with found object mobiles, collages from candy wrappers and junk mail (called mail art in France), knitting with reclaimed yarn, and using rust scraps to dye used clothing.  My 89-year-old mother-in-law is one of my mentors, teaching me fiber-arts and shibori fabric-dyeing techniques.  We worked together at the MN Textile Center and my studio in France. 
In 2001, I co-launched the Visible Fringe, and later co-founded and co-managed Outsiders and Others.  I was constantly being influenced and inspired by our artists.  My co-founder, Yuri Arajs, encouraged me, in-part because of his devotion to self-taught artists. One of the artists, John Schuerman, kept encouraging me think of myself as an artist; so we started collaborating.  When John curated the Self-Portrait Show at Hennes Gallery last year, he offered me the opportunity to be in my first show.  Starting off with a self-portrait was quite intimidating because it was more intimate and demanding than just creating something aesthetic.  I had a hard time trying to decide how much of myself to reveal. I was fortunate to receive a great deal of positive feedback about my self-portrait, particularly because there were so many exceptional artists in the show.
Zipper Shibori
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?  

The best advice was to find my own voice and to have confidence in my unique viewpoint.  Having seen so many accomplished artists and crafts-people, it was difficult to believe that I had something new to say, particularly as a self-taught artist. 

Seeing the value in everyone’s perspective is one thing; but to believe you have something that is worth saying requires both ego and humility.  We’re all influenced by the world around us, so it naturally directs our voice, our art.
Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work?  How do you market yourself?  

I have not yet started selling work.  I am creating more work from found objects and recycled materials, which I will plan to sell work on Etsy.
Red blanket (close up)
Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
This is a very long list.  Here are just a few:

John Schuermanhttp://www.schuermanfineart.com/
Nick Harperhttp://www.roguebuddha.com/artists/nicharper.html
Karen Searlehttp://karensearle.com/
Barbara Gilhoolyhttp://www.gallery360mpls.com/galleries/bgilhooly/index.php?name=bgilhooly
Dick Brewerhttp://www.dixplexia.com/
Virginia Corrick, my mother-in-law, who was recognized by the MN Textile Center.  Unfortunately, she does not have a website.
If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?  

My interests vary widely; it is difficult to know where to stop:  
Intermedia Arts, visual arts and performances from diverse communities http://www.intermediaarts.org/

Franconia’s large-scale contemporary sculpture, http://www.franconia.org/

Open Book’s hand-made books and papers, http://www.openbookmn.org/

MN Textile Center’s diverse fiber artists: fabric dyeing, weaving, knitting,

Interact’s self-taught visual art and theater, http://www.interactcenter.com/

Gallery 360’s wide-range of visual art, jewelry, clothing, etc., http://www.gallery360mpls.com/

Flanders’ contemporary fine-art, http://www.flandersartgallery.com/

Banfill-Locke’s diverse contemporary art, http://www.banfill-locke.org/

Cowles Center for eclectic dance, http://thecowlescenter.org/

The Minnesota Fringe Festival for over 100 performances, http://www.fringefestival.org/

Mixed Blood for diversity-focused theater, http://www.mixedblood.com/

The Dakota for world-class jazz, blues, folk music, http://dakotacooks.com/

The Cedar Cultural Center for diverse/global music, http://www.thecedar.org/

Bunkers for Dr. Mombo’s Combo, http://www.bunkersmusic.com/

Shepard’s Festival for their once-a-year spinning, knitting, felting and more, http://www.shepherdsharvestfestival.org/New_Site/

Art-A-Whirl’s annual visual artist event and many of the studios that are open all-year, http://nemaa.org/art-a-whirl

Ballet of the Dolls for dynamic, theatrical dance, http://www.ritzdolls.com/

Northern Clay for pottery of all types, http://www.northernclaycenter.org/

Shibori shawl

In addition to www.Local-Artist-Interviews.com, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise? 

I often rely on other artists to recommend exhibits, informal shows, or studio visits.   Other resources:

Marya Morstad, host of Art Matters, https://kfai.org/user/1502
Andrea Canter’s jazz blog, http://jazzink.com/

Beth Parkhill

What can we expect to see from you in the future? 
I will continue to create self-portraits, collage, memory boxes, masks, found object sculptures, naturally dyed clothing, and art books with myths.  

Do you have any exhibits to promote?
Banfill-Locke Exhibition to Show You The Money
“Medium of Exchange: The Art of Cash”
Dates: June 22 – August 4 Opening Reception:  Friday, June 22, 6 - 9PM

Featured Artists: Alexa Horochowski, Caitlin Karolczak, Eric Lunde, Karen Searle, David Bartley, John Ilg, Rachel Breen, Beth Parkhill, Rob McBroom, Pete Dreissen
Curated by John Schuerman  


6666 East River Road
Fridley, Minnesota, 55432

Phone: 763-574-1850
Fax: 763-502-6946
Email: mailto:info@banfill-locke.org%20

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