To hear R Nelson Parrish tell his story about his evolution as an artist, is to become an admirer of his talents as well as his passion for life. His latest installation, Color/Fast, opened at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, UT at the beginning of the month, and it is an exploration into color, speed and time. Among his works on display are 8-foot tall modern totems that were inspired by his native Alaska. We recently caught up with the former athlete and ski racer in Parrish in Park City before he headed back to his home in Santa Barbara. Read our interview with the artist ahead, as he discusses his bio-resin works, and how nature is so important to his art and his life.
INHABITAT: How does the term Colorfast describe your latest show?
R Nelson Parrish: The term Colorfast originally is a textile industry term derived at the beginning of the last century. It defines how a color cannot fade, wash out, or be diluted over time, and ultimately the color stays the same. Whether it be in a t-shirt, a dish towel, or even a house paint — the color remains true.
Color/Fast, as a title, came about for two reasons. The first is because the work deals with the language of color and speed. Second, my work is proposing that both the art experience and the athletic experience are the same emotion. Like the definition of colorfast, the work couples and invokes feelings that can withstand the test of time.
Plus, RGBUltraspeed and Speedscapes lacked that certain Je ne sais quoi.
INHABITAT: Tell us a little about the process of creating your works?
R Nelson Parrish: That is a lengthily lecture that I will not bore you with. I will say, in short, the process is long, tedious, arduous, demanding and expensive. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Each piece represents a minimum of 100 hours in fabrication, along with a buckets of blood, sweat and tears. However, like climbing Everest, the end result is 100% worth it. After 6 months of working a minimum 14 hour days, 7 days a week, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
INHABITAT: What materials do you use?
R Nelson Parrish: R Nelson Parrish: Color, wood, fiberglass, and bio-resin. I also do a lot of research that requires heavy documentation. I implement a lot of photography and video as source material.
INHABITAT: You switched from a common resin to a bio-resin – why? And has it made a difference in your health?
R Nelson Parrish: I switched to bio-resin for a number of reasons. The first was health reasons. I was tired of smelling like a homeless person who slept in a toxic dump. And the long term effects of being overexposed directly result in cancer. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, and I want to make sure I can make art for as long as possible.
The second reason is that the bio-resin is a better resin. It is clearer, stronger, and archival. It doesn’t discolor or fade over time. Rey and Desi, two brothers who developed the resin, are great guys. They grew up surfing and skiing out of a VW bus up in the Bay Area. Which was great, because they immediately connected and understood the conceptual foundation of the work.
Lastly, the resin is simply better in the long haul. I would never claim to be an environmentalist, but I do believe in longevity. We, culturally, have to be conscientious stewards of the world we live in. We have to make small, simply everyday steps to have a fruitful effect. A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step. And every small step helps.
Ultimately, the switch was a win win win.
INHABITAT: Who makes the bio-resin you use and what is it made out of?
R Nelson Parrish: Rey and Desi Banato at Entroy Resins. Awesome guys. They can give you the PhD. version, but in a nutshell it’s pine sap and biodiesel remnants.
INHABITAT: How does nature and the environment impact or inspire you?
R Nelson Parrish: In one word: constantly. A large component of the work is about moving through the landscape; skiing, surfing, biking, running, etc. Translating elated feelings of being completely connected to yourself or the environment. Or even those moments where you hike to the top of a hill, or you’re driving I-80, and you look out onto nothing but vast rollers and big sky. It’s sublime. I always tell people, if you really want to study color, go to Alaska. There is nothing quite like it.
But, in the end, I want people to go and get experiences. To motivate and inspire them to engage, interact, and challenge themselves and the world. That can only be done be heading out into the world and going for it. Nature is a wonderful playmate.
Images ©Bridgette Meinhold for Inhabitat