Catherine Parker (1926 - 2012)
by Dean Brownrout
Catherine Esther Burchfield Parker, 85, one of Western New York’s most respected and beloved artists, passed away after a brief illness, on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
Parker was born in Gardenville, New York, on December 31, 1926. She moved away from the Western New York region in the late 1940s to study. She married soon thereafter, living away from the region for almost 40 years, raising her family and residing in cities as diverse as Kansas City, Denver, Amarillo, and Santa Cruz.
In 1983, Parker moved back to Buffalo. At the time, she simply felt a sense of wanting to define herself as a “northeasterner.” She began painting with vigor, and established close personal, artistic and spiritual connections, which she enjoyed until she moved back to California in 2011, to be nearer to her daughter.
In the last decade of her life, Parker was producing some of her most creative artwork. She was fully engaged in her community, with her own art, and with her fellow artists, including fertile collaborations with her friends, poet Peter Siedlecki and musician Roland Martin.
Her painting series based on the Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen allowed her to be inspired by an incredibly meaningful piece of music, and also to be artistically entwined with the Buffalo Chamber Players; she was close friends with BCP artistic director Janz Castelo and his young family.
The fact that her recent works have been hotly sought after by her loyal collectors, and acquired by the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Castellani Art Museum for its collection, also indicates that she was doing some of the best work of her career.
She was a much-loved person and artist. Local art collectors have acquired her art for decades. A show last month at Muleskinner Antiques of her early and student works from 1940-60s literally sold out in two weeks; the precious pieces, many classic American landscape scenes, were grabbed up by many of Parker’s committed collectors, who most usually have more than one of her pieces in their homes.
Because of Parker’s conscious seeking of human connection and interaction, many of her clients became personal friends. Neighbors, parishioners, fellow artists…all will miss her and all will remember her—both through their fond memories of her exuberance and by the physical presence of her personality in the passionately made art she left for so many to enjoy.
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