Catherine Burchfield Parker (American, 1926-2012) was born in Gardenville, a suburb of Buffalo, NY. Her father was the well known watercolor painter, Charles E. Burchfield (American, 1893-1967). From both her parents Charles and Bertha (nee Kenreich) she and her four siblings all learned a love of classical music and nature, especially the drama of weather and the seasons.
Growing up in the home of a painter, it was natural for Parker to want to become one. After high school, she studied for a year at the Buffalo Art Institute. But wanting to move away from the influence of her father, she left Buffalo to study at the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. She studied there for three years, where her principal painting instructor was Ross Braught.
After art school, she married Kenneth Parker, a fellow student. They lived for several years in Denver before moving to Amarillo, Texas in l956 where they raised their three children: Christine, Douglas and Jennifer. Throughout those early years, Parker painted constantly and exhibited regularly. However, her work never satisfied her, and for a period of about eight years, she quit painting entirely and studied music instead. Her instrument was the 'cello, which she had studied as a child. She graduated from West Texas State University in l970,with a degree in music education, and played with the Amarillo symphony and in chamber music groups.
In l975, Parker and her husband were divorced and she subsequently moved to California. There she began painting again. Since at this time she needed to earn a living, she worked at various jobs, mostly teaching art, and substitute teaching in the public schools.
In l982, Parker made the decision to move back to Buffalo. For her, it was a kind of surrender, both to the necessity of pursuing a life as a painter and to accepting and appreciating the reality of being her father's daughter. While she could not escape the obvious influence of a famous artist for a father, she went on to develop her own views and style, which are separate and distinct from his.
Parker traveled widely and many of her paintings reflect this. She had visited France, painting and drawing the interiors of the cathedrals of Paris and the orchards and vineyards of southern France . She once visited Jennifer and her family in Papua New Guinea and produced several paintings from memories of that country. In the US, she traveled regularly to California, New Mexico and Minnesota, where Christine, Douglas, Jennifer and their children now live. The New Mexico landscape, with its vast sense of space, had a particular appeal for her. Catherine died at the age of 85 on November 6, 2012 after a brief illness.
"I am attempting in my work to find a balance between what is seen and what is remembered or imagined. I find that I go back and forth between more representational and more abstract.
My images come from nature and the city and I find in the rhythms of the seasons, metaphors for my life. As one British painter has said, each painting is an investigation, not unlike a scientific experiment. I also find inspiration and ideas in music, and particularly contemporary music.
I am currently exploring the mysticism I find in the music coming from Eastern Europe, and attempting to express that mysticism visually.
The artists whom I admire and who have influenced my work include Charles Burchfield, Milton Avery, Arthur Dove, Richard Diebenkorn and Mark Rothko. The sculptures of Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi have had a profound effect on me." -Catherine Parker