Arts & Culture

Sea Island artist seeks to bridge the gap

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:26 PDT, Thu June 27, 2019

Last Updated: 12:26 PDT, Tue July 30, 2019

Karen Lorena Parker uses her art to both support her family, and to express herself.

Karen Lorena Parker uses her art to both support her family, and to express herself.

“I’m earning my living solely from art so I am a multi-disciplinary artist. I work in film, graphic design, and any project I just take on,” she says.

One of the projects’ was a high-profile one: designing the box of Lindt chocolates for the Golden Globes. The chocolates were given out to Hollywood royalty attending of the awards show.

Parker, who now lives on Sea Island, grew up in Calgary after her parents fled Pinochet’s regime in Chile.

Like most immigrants and refugees, they instilled a strong work ethic in their daughter.

“For immigrants like my parents, job security is number one. It’s survival.

It’s basic. They were cut off from a network and cut off from their skills,” Parker says.

She talks of how hard her parents worked, with three jobs between them to support their family. And of how hard it was for her parents to start again, calling it devastating to the family and to their self-esteem. 

Speaking of her mother, Parker says, “She didn’t understand Canadian society. In Chile, my mom was a nurse, here she was making sausages for $2 an hour before somebody told her, ‘You have to go back to school. You can redo your education.’”

So, her mom did go back to school and became a nurse in Canada, earning far more than minimum wage. 

She says her immigrant parents’ attitudes translate into her work ethic today and she tries to pass that along to her two children.

When asked what speaks to her heart, Parker replies, “The Feminine Wild series about all these famous women erased from history.”

For instance, 1990s black astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison.

“But no one knows who she is today. These are notable women, notable people who overcame a lot. You don’t see women in science as much,” Parker says.

Parker is an example herself, having loved university physics in which she got an A.

I would love to do the art of physics and math. I loved Fibonacci patterns and the golden ratio, the math of art. Because I took physics, I loved math. I would have loved to have been taught the math of art and the physics of music.”

This single parent has classrooms and safety on her mind.

Speaking of her famous painting, called NRA (after the US National Rifle Association), Parker says, “Being an artist, I don’t have to spread the fear. I want something that can connect with everybody. With that NRA painting, I want to talk about something the media is making divisive and scary.”

As former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Jon Carroll says, “We are all made stupid by fear. Don’t attack the stupidity. Address the fears.”

She hopes both those who oppose gun control and those who support it could look at the same image and have a discussion rather than just further entrench their positions.

Parker calls her pieces, in whatever medium she works, “That joy of creative problem-solving.”

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