Artist Lynn Parotti
Devoted to using her work as a platform for change, Bahamian artist, Lynn Parotti, paints the world one cause at a time.
Words by Marcia Milgate
Water: omnipresent; ebbing, flowing, rippling, ever changing; an integral element of the Caribbean psyche. Growing up in The Bahamas, cradled by the evocative Caribbean Sea, artist, Lynn Parotti’s internal compass is intimately and intricately drawn by the rich, symbolic element that surrounded her from birth. The life-giving nature of water is pervasive in her work: the tantalising manipulation of paint capturing it infinitely. For Parotti, “Water holds us together. It is all things: psychological, literal, yet nostalgic at the same time.”
'Mangrovia' (2010), oil on canvas.
Idyllic summers were spent frolicking on the untouched cays of the Exumas with her mother, a native of Salt Pond, Long Island and her father, a marine mechanic. When not swimming or boating, she slept nearby, absorbing its seductive rhythms and allowing it to seep into her consciousness. Parotti developed a keen affinity with nature, viewing water as the critical life source in a world of constant flux and thus becoming a fundamental part of the artist’s destiny and identity.
Attending New York’s State and Virginia’s Commonwealth Universities, Parotti soon carved out a niche for herself within the visual arts’ community, exhibiting solo and collectively in The Bahamas, United States and Europe. Later calling England home, Parotti returned both literally and figuratively to her Caribbean roots, seeking creative inspiration and exploring the commonalities linking both worlds. Drawing on literary influences – Romantic poets, John Keats and Lord Byron, as well as philosopher, Gaston Bachelard, whose article, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter is a guiding force – her work is infused with images of diasporic living, where water is the ubiquitous force – the sea of change and unity. Initially working on smaller canvases (64 x 38cm), the ‘Safety Zones’ series (2007) explores the disillusionment of wealth, the credit crunch of 2007 and the plight of Haitian immigrants through the destructive and constructive symbolism of the crane. Connected by the ocean, reflected images of a crane at West India Docks, Canary Wharf, London juxtapose with the ‘Rusted Crane’ on the Beach of Athol Island.
'Haitian Immigrant Worker' (2010), oil on canvas.
Evolving a more overt style intended to speak more directly to viewers of the social and ideological imperatives about which she is so passionate, Parotti comments: “I use oil paint because of its visceral propensities to convey emotion and social conscience through imagery where the human hand is still present…
“Water holds us together. It is all things: psychological, literal, yet nostalgic at the same time.”
‘Filliminga Pool II’ (2008), oil on canvas.
Its rawness and immediacy lends it self to an intimacy that speaks about our collective responsibility.” In her latest installation, ‘The Space Between Want’, Parotti having progressed to larger scale canvases (up to 175 x 240 cm), positioned glass panels in the centre of the room through which the work was observed, providing 'layered perceptions' like in history. Here, painting counterintuitively, the image of the docks, sky and clouds emerges as a reflection in the harbour’s murky water, while simultaneously persuading us of the motion of water and its subsequent distortion. Visually impressive, Parotti’s large brush strokes are more, “guttural, big and powerful in their gestures.” Though daring and technically complex, the underlying social theme is accentuated by the suggestive weight of the material itself. Emotion is palpable, released in bold movements and intense colour applications.
'Mangrovia Rosa' (2010),oil on canvas.
Similar sensitivity and urgency are evident in the ‘Inagua’ series (2008), including ‘Mangrovia Rosa’, ‘Filliminga’, ‘Untitled 6’, ‘Feeders’, ‘Lagoon’ and ‘Breath’. Depicting the unique ecosystems of the island, each piece is alive with mangroves, salt pools and the West Indian flamingos indigenous to the southern Bahamian islands. Varying the curvature, length and thickness of brushstrokes to convey the multifaceted nature of water, Parotti unravels the symbiosis between subjects. Injecting atypical colourations to highlight movement, shadow and depth as well as stark white to reveal intense sunlight, the artist portrays the vulnerability of existence in a changing climate, exploring similar environmental themes in her exhibitions of ‘The Green Fuse Series’ (2009) of the River Thames at night and ‘When the Bough Breaks’ (2007) of Hampstead Heath. Propelled onward, with one painting generating the start of another, there emerge, “several perspectives from one starting point.”
'Green Fuse 7' (2009), oil on canvas.
Disinclined to map out or work from preliminary sketches, Parotti makes and primes her own canvases, assembling a photographic montage to depict a particular scene. Drawing with her brushes, paint is layered into thick, almost impasto-like definition. Working quickly, the photographic quality slowly diffuses sometimes into abstraction. Boldly incorporating subject matter into the creation of her installations, the ‘Tar Baby’ series (2010) includes a life size water level marker, while ‘Plume’ features bitumen applied directly onto the canvas depicting a decomposing flamingo trapped in oil. The entire installation pleads to the necessity of protecting our waters from manmade tragedies such as oil spills, global warming and rising sea levels. Yet, while many of her works portray the fragility of natural environments and their dependence on healthy water systems, Parotti is not without hope. ‘Mangrovia’, exuding vibrancy, offers a more uplifting perspective in the face of grave concern – its shifting light is balanced and warm while the movement of the water around the mangrove roots is captured in mesmerising detail.
'Plume' (2010),oil on canvas.
In Lynn Parotti’s world, the primordial waters from which all life emerges transcend all: they are the life force, the energy from which we all take our cue. Endlessly versatile, she captures its complexity and vitality in every stroke. Regardless of whether you hear her message, the visual impact of colour and texture are Parotti’s indelible signature – an artist whose message may be ‘Writ in water,’ but whose message is eternal, carried far and wide on the tides of the ocean waters in an infinite cycle of life.
To view more of Lynn Parotti's artwork, click here to visit her official website.
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