Element-16, 2002. Low-fire ceramic, steel, salt, and wood, 4 x 41 x 41 in.

Rick Parsons: The Salient Point

Rick Parsons’s sparely poetic sculptures combine the elements of earth with the simple alchemy of evaporation and oxidized steel. This confluence yields poignant statements about corporeal and environmental conditions. Their infused surfaces and surroundings imply memory altered and obscured by time; however, encrypted below the salt-encrusted forms, referencing chromosomes or crucibles, is a quiet outrage against cancer and the destruction of the environment. Parsons spent his youth on the Texas coast, hemmed in between the briny water and a chemical factory. There, he first encountered the conundrum that drives his work: the tipping point at which a blessing becomes a burden. The catch-22 of his childhood home was that the factory provided economic development while causing environmental decline. This theme of contradiction—elements that heal yet destroy—is the ironic core that defines Parsons’s intellectual and artistic quest.