Joel Parker

Joel Parker

Gainesville, FL, United States

About Joel Parker

I am a painter and currently a graduate student in Art History at the University of Florida. I received my MFA in painting from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009. After graduating I was awarded a travel fellowship to live in Paris at the Cite International des Arts. During this time I decided to return to graduate school and study art history in order to inform my visual practice.

My work investigates the relevance of specific social practices and rituals to contemporary visual culture through the dynamic continuum of representational painting. My current paintings describe a transitional phase in which college students are navigating social order and individual identity as they move into adulthood. The painting Triumph 48 (slide # 1) depicts a scene in which students are performing a keg stand, which is a ritual emblematic to this Phase. Students often document these activities through digital photography, but give little aesthetic consideration to the photos they post online. These photos are casual in nature, meant to be easily accessible, and focus on documentation. In contrast, I seek to underline the significance of these activities and the transitional phase they signify by creating paintings that consider both the aesthetic qualities of the activities and the images themselves, following the historical practice of painting.

By using the history and scale of painting as a technical foundation I provide space for contemplation and exploration that the snapshot does not offer. The amount of time it takes to make a painting along with the necessity to see the painting in person, invite the viewer to spend more time with them, thereby emphasizing the significance of what is depicted.

The stylistic choices I make in the creation of these paintings reflect the complexity of the transitory period experienced during college. I do not rely on one specific style and often vary between the competing forces of romanticism, rationalism and realism. I interject art historical poses as visual cues to move the viewer through the painting, which is often based on directly choreographed and replicated scenes from Facebook photos.

In my recent paintings I have depicted the figures participating in the socializing rituals in the nude. The nude offers me the opportunity to talk about these activities in a slightly removed form that counters and disrupts the everyday. Furthermore, it represents the feeling of exposure that often comes with posting images online, along with the vulnerability and strong sexual tension an individual often feels at social gatherings. Lastly, it serves as a unifying classicism that subverts the contemporaneity of the activities.

My studio practice is focused on what I see as a necessary need to balance immediate, image based web culture and the history of painting. I seek to be in dialogue with the collage and assemblage mentality that characterizes much of the work in shows like The New Museum's "Unmonumnetal". Like those works, my paintings draw from the excess of our consumption-based culture. Instead of propitiating this, "age of crumbling symbols and broken icons," I document these abundant transitory social interactions in a fixed and historic manner.

My primary interest in contemporary narrative painting is offset by my strong focus on the history of art as evidenced by present educational pursuits. However, I continue to be influenced by current culture and diligently study dynamic shifts within society as part of an ever-expanding studio practice. With this in mind I actively explore exhibition opportunities that foster the unification of these elements.


University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, MA
Washington University in St. Louis, MFA
College of Charleston, Charleston, BA