If the dolphins in Kingsley Parker's drawing Pod, look a bit hemmed in, that's because they are. "They are encircled in a small area," he says. "They frolic, they're playful. And I have another version of this, in a dark hole—that one is called Trust. But there's no real message to this one piece—I just like the image. The body of work it's from is a little more pointed."
That series, titled Oceans Apart, is a multimedia installation currently taking over the Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham. It's a departure for the gallery, which normally features group shows, and is a thematic exploration of the current state of our oceans by an artist in love with the water.
"I've never done an entire show on one topic, and it's different, but fun," says Parker. "It's a complicated topic with a lot of aspects. I think everybody's got love for the ocean, but we'd all be shocked if we considered what was going on; by 2020, scientists predict the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. But I also just wanted to make interesting visuals. It's art; I'm not on a soapbox. And I try for a light touch, to keep a bit of humor in it."
Born in Ohio, Parker gravitated to New England as a young man in the early '70s, studying American literature at Middlebury College, then moving on to Hartford, Boston, and Manhattan to study sculpture, etching, and lithography. When he completed his MFA at Hunter, it was with honors for distinguished graduate work. The art world began to pay attention in the late '80s, and since then his work has been exhibited repeatedly in Manhattan and beyond.
He's found a home in Hudson. "We were weekenders for seven or eight years, and we built a barn ourselves, in Hillsdale," he says. "Then we decided we wanted to live up there full-time and gravitated to Hudson—it has a wonderful scene, a lot of New Yorkers, and a lot of creative people. It's a nice renaissance; meanwhile, the surrounding area is still struggling."
His riverbank train rides back into the city to his work as a professor of Communication Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology inspired a 2011 installation at the Museum Gallery there: Up River, a 63-foot-long representation of sailors' navigational routes.
"We haven't treated it well," he says of the Hudson River. "It's a fine line, touching on issues in art. It's not that I think it's going to change anything, but people seem pleased to find this kind of content. We can be entertained and also get better; there's still time to change."