Parks Reece is an extraordinarily gifted artist whose distinctive paintings, lithographs, and prints represent a complete aesthetic and reflect a sense of humor that is both original and great. Take a look at his resume, to read what people say about him and his art, or read on for a little about his personal history.
Dubbed a “modern mythological surrealist,” Reece fairly bristles at the label, yet acknowledges that “you have to have a classification and I seem to have been lumped in with the surrealists.”
Reece’s parodies inject humor into subjects traditionally considered oh-so-serious and that has made him a hero of environmentalists and others who appreciate the complexities of the human role in our natural world.
“I would never categorize myself as an environmental artist, but when the paint dries I often find that the work is relevant to environmental issues….I sort of dabble in modern mythology by juxtaposing the old myths of the West with the new things that are going on. It’s part of an ancient tradition–that of adding levity to gravity.”
Born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Reece began his art career at the age of three under the eye of his mother, Gwyn Reece, and Ruth Shaw, who developed finger painting as both an art form and a psychoanalytic tool. Finger painting, along with other traditional techniques, gave way to a technique similar to frontage. By applying numerous layers of acrylic pigment to fibrous paper, he creates sub-paintings that are multihued and multidimensional. Some of these are more than twenty years in the making. Using traditional brush techniques, the process is continued by highlighting physical features–cliff faces, brushy gorges, river bottoms–that Reece finds in the sub-painting. Then come the characters–typically animals–whose on-canvas personalities and human traits provide an odd embrace of anthropomorphism.
Between his early years as a finger-painter and his current work in painting and lithography, Reece studied art for two years at East Carolina University, then at the Universidad National in Costa Rica. He continued his education in San Francisco, earning a degree from that city’s prestigious Art Institute.
Faced with dicey career opportunities involving either the Merchant Marines or ranch work, Reece opted to become a cowboy who spent his off hours creating murals on the walls of professional buildings in Sheridan, Wyoming. That led to a job in Lodge Grass, Montana, where he was hired to supervise Crow Indian kids who were painting murals at their high school. Reece then taught art to teenagers living in the industrial housing projects of North Wales. A bicycle tour of France and Italy followed and when he returned to Montana, he settled in Gardiner, a town on the border of Yellowstone National Park, where elk and buffalo outnumber people.
In 1980, Reece became director of the Danforth Gallery, a nonprofit arts education facility in Livingston, Montana. He spent four years there, booking shows and introducing a variety of art and artists to the community. In the meantime, Reece continued to hone his own talents as he developed his unique style of art. Since 1984 he has focused exclusively on his own art. Reece’s work has been exhibited, and is in private collections, across the United States, Canada, and Europe. It has also appeared nationally in numerous magazines as well as in books and on book covers. In 1997, Reece began his series of enthusiastically received limited edition original lithographs, produced at Deep Creek Productions, Russell Chatham’s lithography studio in Livingston, Montana.