GLOBAL WONDERS - Lori Park
Lori Park is an American artist and sculptor, living and working in Marrakech. Her works are infused with the vibrancy and colour that she has encountered in North Africa, and strongly reflect her fascination with texture and movement, as well as the source of much of her inspiration: Nature.
Lori Park creates sculptures in many diverse materials, casting in bronze and glass, using mixed media with paper, resin, cloth, wax and clay. She crafts suspended installations such as large flying wire figures (hung on monofilament) and sometimes ‘floating architecture’ installations composed of hundreds of suspended wire sculptures all interacting through movement. Park also works in sheet copper and brass, and constructs box collages and collages. To add further to her range, she paints magnificent, abstract canvases, working between studios in the US, UK and Morocco.
Park, who holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Evergreen State College in Washington State, fully embraces all aspects of her life of artistry in Marrakech. She shares her love and talent for art by volunteering as an art teacher at a Berber girls’ school in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and has also taught art at a school in the Medina, immersing herself deeply in her environment.
Many of Park’s sculptures and installations relate to the natural world in some way and are joyously filled with movement. Other pieces speak to a moment in time (such as ‘Eat the War’, a bronze Minotaur consuming small soldiers) and the questions of culture, human nature, human condition and existence. All, however, are a celebration of life contained within the natural world. “I am fascinated by the texture and movement of life as it is held within the pulse of nature,” says Park, who spent years working in the environmental field. “My art changed dramatically after I began working in Marrakech, fed by new cultural influences.”
Her large dress-like female form sculptures and ‘textural panels’ emerged from the studio in Marrakech, fusing a human language of dance, movement and energy with nature. These works display a force of sensuous energy with their flowing cascades of texture, layers of colour and energy, all embedded with roses and palm fronds, as well as found cultural identity pieces
Park’s seven Radiance Figures – the textured female, dress-like figures characterised by their sense of flow and suggestiveness – formed the core of her 2007 solo show at the Museum of Marrakech. The figures combined dance as a metaphor for the natural world and spiritual, cultural belief systems (including for example, the seven chakras). The model for Silk Weaver was part of this series. Patinated in cornflower blue, a rich hue inspired by Novalis, a deep tone associated with romance in literature, and decorated with carved roses, Silk Weaver is a beautiful and strong expression of romance and femininity. The cascading layers of blue bronze crumble to the ground in a waterfall of texture while the bronze mesh, forming the upper torso of the figure, adds a sensitive and fragile element. The sculpture was later selected for inclusion in Sotheby’s world-renowned exhibition of monumental sculpture, Beyond Limits, held at Chatsworth House in England in 2014, alongside works by sculptors Aristide Maillol, Mark Quinn, Giacomo Manzù, Eduardo Chillida, Xu Bing and Beverly Pepper.
Aside from its scale and beauty, there is a deeper message of female camaraderie in Silk Weaver. In 2012, the work was exhibited in Spitalfields, which was Park’s first major public display in London. It was dedicated to honouring the silk-weaving women of the East London district. Historically, the silk weavers of Spitalfields – largely Parisian Huguenot refugees arriving in the late 17th century – had a hugely positive impact on the financial and social development of East London, not to mention its fashion. The importation of foreign glossy silks in competition with the newly-resident weavers was even banned by law.
Yet, by the 1700s, linen and calicoes began to gain in popularity at the expense of traditional silks. In protest, mobs of angry silk weavers took to the streets in 1719, dousing in ink any woman found to be wearing the newly fashionable fabrics. Inevitably, the Spitalfields weavers’ monopoly on the silk industry could no longer be sustained, particularly by the mid-19th century when a treaty permitted imports of duty-free French silks.
The successes and trials of this community of women are celebrated in the anonymity and movement of Park’s sculpture, truncated by its delicate torso. Inspired by Park’s homage to the Spitalfields women, residents have launched a campaign to install a permanent sculpture as a lasting monument to the Huguenot weavers. And, in the same way that the history of Spitalfields has been indelibly changed and influenced by the creativity of another culture, Park’s exposure to Marrakech, a hotbed of artistic exploration, has inspired her own sense of artistry and development.
Park’s works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in London, Berlin, Mallorca, Bermuda, Washington DC, Ashland, Oregon, Belfast and at the Marrakech Biennale amongst others, and featured in the UK National Collection. She has won many awards and prizes in both Europe, North America and beyond, including the ‘Femme, Art, Climat’ trophy for her art exploring the subject of climate change at the United Nations COP22 Summit in Marrakech in November 2016. Park also participated in a solo and a group show in the Green Zone at COP22, presenting a large sculpture depicting Planet Earth (in concrete), a series of botanical/found object prints from eight countries (‘camera-less photography’), a white Radiance Figure sculpture, and a suspended sea-life wire installation. Her work has been acquired by private collectors for inclusion in prestigious collections including those of His Royal Highness the King of Morocco, his sister Princess Lalla Meryem, The Museum of Marrakech, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Baron and Baroness von Schroder Collection, The Marquess of Bath, Don Pedro Serra Collection and the Peggy Cooper Cafritz Collection.
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