Simply Symbolic Surrogates: Dustin Edward Parr’s Surrealist Art

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Dustin E. Parr of Denver, Colorado creates Surrealist and Conceptual Art with oil on canvas. Dustin’s surrealist art work consists of mirrored metaphors and allusions. He knew he was meant to be a painter the moment he stretched a canvas for the first time. “Of course, I couldn't have possibly imagined what being an artist meant besides going hungry and crazy sometimes in the pursuit of some ‘ideal’ beauty. I have found that art itself holds a responsibility to the culture and community in which it was created.”

Each canvas created by any artist is to Dustin their “reflection of worldview, a chance to walk a mile in another’s footsteps and thoughts. A work of fine art whispers to the world in a silent communication between past and present -This is life, and these are my eyesMy work strives to challenge the viewer’s attitude toward of our shared world; to expand perception creating growth of heart and mind.”        

What inspires you to create art?

I generally let my mind wander until I can find an idea abstract and relevant enough to turn into a visual image. Pages and pages of graphs, free writing, and doodles fill my sketchbook. Then I just flip through the pages until I can make a concrete idea, and sharpen the idea until I am comfortable starting the painting. I try to live in a constant state of encompassing art perspective, or Gesamtkunstwerk. If I am consumed in art, then most anything I create will come from an honest place, regardless of the quality of the work. I am inspired to make art because I am; so I see it fitting that my concepts are also inspired from my place in this world.

Subjectivity of Ideal Proportion
Vitruvian Penguin: Subjectivity of Ideal Proportion, copyright Dustin E. Parr, 2012

The title says it all for this piece. There is geometry and symmetry in all organisms, not just mankind. Perfect proportions can be seen from anywhere, depending on perspective. Patterns are the nature of the universe, meaning that no one has a body that is perfect or ideal, because those things are subjective. In physics, this is called a parallax, it’s how a measurement can seem to be inaccurate depending on your point of view.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I was always told that an artist is someone who makes, exhibits, profits, and calls themselves art. Simple enough, but then we have to define art itself.  Art is a work made through human inventiveness and skill, both of which vary in quality. I would say then that the first time I was in a show and sold a piece (an exhibition that I curated myself embarrassingly enough)  was when I became an artist.

The first painting I ever completed now resides in a landfill somewhere in the Midwest (where it fully deserves to be in my opinion). It was a rose suspended in the air (by nothing) on a curtained stage. It was impasto and alla prima, to compensate for my heavy hand and my unfamiliarity with paint. I chose my imagery because it felt right, it felt honest. There was no real message or emotion I wanted to convey. It was simply a reflection of how I viewed life at that time. I imagine most artists would agree that looking at their work from high school painting class is equivalent to looking at their awkward, acne ridden yearbook photos. Not to downplay the works themselves, some of them still hang in my house (though maybe for nostalgia’s sake). I loved every second of exploring opacity, color theory, and composition for the first time, but all of these decisions were subconscious, I stopped when something ‘looked right’. I had no real knowledge of what creating art technically meant. Learning how to do these things on purpose is why I went to art school, a fantastic way to boost the professionalism of any work.

What does your art mean to you, what are you conveying?

I treat my art as a journal. My images become permanent records in history of otherwise fleeting thoughts, dreams, and interpretations. I try to force my viewer’s attention past the whimsy and into the meat of the concept. My main intentions are social evolution and creating a philosophical awareness  indirectly through fanciful and pleasing imagery.

Mutative Evolution and Extinction, Dustin E. Parr
The Biolope: Mutative Evolution and Extinction, Copyright Dustin E. Parr
Mutations can cause a species to evolve in a way more suitable to support its survival in a niche. Mutations can also destroy communities in the form of radiation, cancer, or toxins. This piece reminds me humankind's fight to achieve homeostasis with our planet and each other, before we start the descent of no return.

Creative process, beginning to end:

My creative process begins with writing a page of many different lists that I make in the ways of psychic-automatism.  On the next page, I “connect the dots” and chart out the ironies and ideas that I think are worth exploring. Then I start associating imagery with these ideas in my mind, fashioning scenes and deciding which will be the most effective or dynamic when translated to paper. From that decision on, the creative process becomes the ‘technical’ process. After all of the decisions are made concerning a work’s palette, composition, and subjects, it becomes a building block filled with layer upon layer of trial and error as well as trial and success. In the ‘hands on’ part of creating, I view the process as a series of the best possible decisions out of available options. Your options of creation steadily decrease as you work until you are left with a framed and finished piece, and there are no more creative options.

Do you have any regrets in your life as an artist?

When I was an art student, read of the insanity of Van Gogh and romanticized stories of the alcoholic and reclusive lives of contemporary artists living in Bohemia  I accepted this role which happens to be my one regret about being an artist. Networking is more important now than ever, and becoming an artist isn't only about creating work as masterfully as you can. There is a ‘face’ or persona to construct, an artist is responsible to the public because our message in our work is public. My regret is not jumping into the public eye as quickly as I could have, although I did learn much about my work with the time spent in what I thought was a necessary meditative seclusion during creation.

Tell me more about bringing your art to the public.

I started a series of annual shows called “Formality Aside: Bringing Culture Home”. This is intended to throw back to the Salons of Ancient Chinese and 17th century French tradition. I take a house that someone has volunteered, and I turn it into a gallery space, and have a gala/reception for shows aimed at Socratic discussion. Artists are invited to discuss their personal views of our culture. The purpose of these exhibitions is to take back and redefine our society in our homes and everyday lives with ideas and fellowship. Art exists because we exist, and this is how we progress as a civilization. Our art is our culture; we can make it what we want it to be.

What I am proposing with these shows is a movement toward remembering that a place for conversation regarding the important issues of today is not located on a campus somewhere. Not all advancements come from a laboratory, but from our own minds and conversations. The ideas needed to fuel our culture to advance can be propagated in the rooms in our own houses. These exhibitions are  about proving the importance of this perspective as well as serving to remind ourselves that the culture belongs to us, and it is what we individually make of it. Combined, our actions become more than personal decisions, they become culture.

Dustin E. Parr, Irreconcilable Progress
Irreconcilable Progress: Destroyer Of Worlds, copyright Dustin E. Parr, 2012
24"x30" oil on canvas
This painting was inspired by listening to Robert Oppenheimer talk about what it felt like to witness the detonation of test atomic weapons. The quote is from a Hindu scripture, used by Oppenheimer to describe the awful and devastating power that we hold in the laws of physics. He also said, "It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them." It is up to us to harness these powers for the benefit of mankind, and not for militarization. Nuclear power is step in the right direction, but seeing how it also places mankind in a potential meltdown scenario, it seems that we should keep moving and discovering instead of settling for an imperfect energy system.

How do you sell your artworks? 

Aside from the normal online selling techniques (prints, ebay, deviantart, etc. etc.) I sell most of my work through local venues. Contacting businesses and hanging art on their walls is a great way to advertise and make sales to people whom you would have never met by yourself. Through sales like these I have found commissions for paintings, murals, drawings, and sculptures. The great thing about my art is that patrons often give me a vague idea and allow the details to me. Every once in a while I will get a specific commission, but I always find a way to spin it to my own liking.

Learn more about Dustin and his art by following these links:

© IOUart, Creative Highlight, all images © Dustin E. Parr
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