Monday, April 28, 2014

The X Factor: Maxfield Parrish

I don't have any books that start with the letter "X." I don't think I've even read a book starting with "X"! So today's fill-in will have to be keeper book Maxfield Parrish, by Coy Ludwig, the closest I can get to any title with an "X" in it, other than The Alexandria Quartet, the first book I posted for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. 

"Twilight" has always been my favorite Parrish painting. Oh, yes, I adore all his wood nymphs, fairy tale princesses, gorgeous waterfalls and morning skies—I’ve even had drinks at San Francisco’s Pied Piper Bar with its splendid namesake painting, but for some reason, this tame little scene of a white-washed house in the middle of nowhere speaks the loudest to me. 

When I first started taking art lessons, my teacher said something very interesting that I’ve never forgotten: she said that the world was full of landscape paintings, still life pictures, portraits, fantasy art, you name it. The full range of techniques and expressions from abstract acrylic on glass to humanist marble sculpture has already been done, and by artists of every skill level imaginable. But what differentiates the pieces that truly speak to us is what she called “the X factor.” That little, indefinable unique something-or-other that makes the work different, and special. It might not even be seen by everyone who views the work—but when you see the X factor, you know it, and you want that piece of art in your life. 

I don’t think there’s any Parrish painting that doesn’t hold some kind X factor for me, but "Twilight" seems to carry a special message, one that speaks to me of home and hope. I’ve moved so many times in my life that I don’t really have a very clear image of what “home” means. The places I lived in as a child were scary and unfriendly, somewhere to escape from, rather than seek refuge or feel any sort of safety or comfort. It wasn’t until I lived in my own apartments and houses that I understood how to make a place warm, welcoming, and peaceful—in other words, a home. 

“Twilight” has given me that inspiration and a model to follow. Other than my years in the Georgia countryside (and that was pretty suburban; the college was right down the road next to a smooth highway leading straight to the heart of Atlanta) I’ve never lived in quite the full extent of isolation as in this painting. If I did, I know I’d go stir-crazy in a matter of days. After a few walks up and down that creek bed I’d be itching for libraries, art supply stores, and a quick trip to the mall for a latte. But . . . it’s nice to dream. 

It seems I carry the image of this particular house in my mind wherever I live, and it’s what has made me seek out an X factor in my own sense of style of interior decorating, maybe even my own writing and art. I can't say exactly what that is, but it’s a striving for something quiet and tranquil, a space that allows me to think and create and just be me. It’s a good place to go, and I hope you have a special heart-place of your own, too. Let me know if you'd like to share!


KAT Writer said...

Thank you for introducing me to an artist I was not familiar with. I do like Twilight. It reminds me so of the works my grandmother painted of her Irish cottages.


Charlotte Fairchild said...

I grew up with a small print in my Mom's house of a Maxfield Parrish. There is one in the permanent collection of the High Museum in Atlanta. I was married when my Mom bought a print (and most people have the poster prints) for $300.00 in a lovely frame. A new one is close to $90.00 before being framed. I have one print. My house has two columns inside. Sometimes I put the columns near the columns. My house is a museum.

Valerie Storey said...

I wish there were more illustrators like Maxfield Parrish these days. His work was magical, making anywhere its found a special place, for sure.