The Portraiture of Purion Parker

By Cameron Aubernon  |  Arts & Entertainment

Portraiture is an art form where patience, speed and skill are keys to success. A single piece can take weeks to bring to life, whether the artist is portraying a single subject or a group. Then, there’s the subject of the portraiture, who spends hours at a time not moving a single muscle as the artist captures their essence.

The results can be legendary: Mona Lisa. Girl with a Pearl Earring. American Gothic. The artists behind such masterpieces – Da Vinci, Vermeer, Wood – are respected and admired for their craft, achieving immortality through their art.

Purion Parker is another portraiture artist already leaving his mark in the art world, and especially in Louisville’s art scene. The New Albany, Indiana, native crossed the Ohio into Louisville in late 2015 to hone his craft at OPEN Community Art Center across from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, where he is a resident artist. Since then, his work has found its way to the likes of Tim Faulkner Gallery, Ultra Pop and the Indianapolis Public Library.

“My mom was a sketch artist,” Parker says. “She had me and my brothers sketch whatever it is she liked to sketch. For some reason, my eye was really quick, [and] I was really good with doing people … I like being around people. I like seeing people. I like seeing the emotion and energy. … I get a charge from [people], especially if I can really capture who that person is, their essence, the likeness of who that person is.”

Parker soon realized he could make a career out of portraiture when he noticed everyone looking at his work found a connection with what they saw. This path would eventually take him to his first show, Chip Calloway’s ConSINsual Madness group show at OPEN in 2015. A juried show at Actors Theater of Louisville in February 2016, his first solo show at OPEN in late May through mid-July, and a Prince/David Bowie tribute group show at Ultra Pop around the same time would all follow.

Recently, a handful of his portraits were part of Tim Faulkner Gallery’s winter 2017 group show, while a piece recreating the moment Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston was among a few of his works shown at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Meet the Artists XXIX group show. And there’s more to come:

“There’s a [portraiture] conference coming up at the end of April. I’m hoping to enhance my skills with portraiture [at the conference] so I can teach the methods [to students in the area] as a way to give back to the community.”

Another way he’s giving back to the community? He recently co-signed an agreement with fellow resident artist John Faughender to run OPEN for the next two years. The community art center is undergoing an extensive reinvention of its image and mission, pivoting toward being the first step to a new artist’s career in Louisville through classes and workshops. And of course, there’s something else he’d like to bring to the Louisville art community:

“I would like to start a portrait society here in this area. That has been something I’ve had a really deep passion for. Out in the west, [portrait societies are] really big. I know art is a healing [tool]. I would like to reach out to anybody that has this type of skill [to join]. I’d like to structure it… I’d like to see it grow.” VT