Exercises in self-discovery
Local sculptor Preston Parrott bridges art and science

Preston Parrott brushes patina into a large piece of copper he is making into a range hood for a new client. In addition to functional metal furnishings, Parrott also creates metal sculpture./Photo by Jared Boyd

by Jules Masterjohn

Art and science are twins born of creativity. Albert Einstein recognized this kinship and was a frequent commentator on the relationship. His statement, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," clearly suggests that, whether through art or science, illuminating the mysteries in the world begins with imagination.

Einstein suggests that wonder - as in wondering - is an integral component to creativity. It is this attitude of curiosity that is shared by both the scientist and the artist.

What about individuals who are drawn to both art and science? Often, after someone admits a fondness for calculus, a statement follows about an inability to "draw a straight line." Truly, it seems that the ambidextrous ones, those comfortable moving between their right and left brain, are not so common.

Preston Parrott is an emerging artist who hangs out regularly in both of his cerebral hemispheres. He is guided by playfulness, intuition and experimentation in his business, Blue Gemini Productions, where he designs and crafts functional metal furnishings and metal sculpture.

Like many entrepreneurs, Parrott invested his life savings in his business. In his second year of business in Durango, he has worked and played hard to convert his passion with metal into a consistent livelihood. "It's been a big learning curve to figure out what aspects of this business make me money," he said as he looked over a copper range hood for a new client. It wasn't until recently that he allowed the "reluctant artist" in him to come forward to try his hand at making nonfunctional objects.

Growing up in a small Mississippi town, he was unaware of his aptitude in the visual arts. While Parrott played the clarinet in high school, he "never understood painting except if the canvas had numbers on it," and he found "drawing a chore." Parrott excelled in math and science, hoping to become an engineer. In reflection, he traces his creative influences to his father who is an "accomplished doodler" and photography buff and his mother, a caterer, who was "creative with food."

While in college, during the same semester that he was chosen as ROTC Battalion Member of the Month, he had a life-altering epiphany while studying physics. Knowing things needed to change, Parrott decided that traveling would help him see his life in a new perspective. He had just won $600 on a horse race, so off to Europe he flew.

Another leap in understanding fell upon him while sitting in a piazza in Italy. "I am the controller of my destiny," came through to him loud and clear.

Preston Parrott’s 6-by-4 -foot sculpture “Convergence.” Courtesy photo.

Back in the States, he landed in Austin, Texas, where a series of events led him to a temporary job at Dell Computers. Four years later, in a permanent position with the company, his "need for balance within his life" directed him to a metal fabricating class. Attracted to the qualities of copper and fascinated by the use of chemicals to produce color on the copper's surface, he has never looked back.

Like many, Parrott felt a draw to Durango on his first visit. Unhinging himself from the financial benefits of his corporate job was not an easy task, however. It took him a couple of years to respond to the call and today, with new awareness, he has moved from a life directed by others and their expectations to one guided by creativity and discovery.

Examples of his most recent sculptural panels, his "exercises in self-discovery," show the artist's desire to explore formal elements such as movement and tension between the forms, and surface texture and color within them. With titles like "Convergence," "Transition Point" and "Spontaneity," the sculptures also indicate Parrott's interest in metaphysics.

Viewing the pieces, one can see that Parrott is a meticulous craftsman. He welds large steel frames within which he places geometric copper forms, planes and curving rods, all consummately constructed. He makes the forms from copper sheeting, joining the sides of the forms together using folding, braising and riveting processes. The forms are colored with vibrant and subtle patinas, mild acids that etch and oxidize the metal's surface to create color and pattern. Elegant and sophisticated forms in space, Parrott's sculptures reveal his skilled yet playful process.

In the large vertical panel "Convergence," Parrott's shapes represent the process of manifestation, which "brings to light how we as humans and the cosmos manifest, by merging the yin and yang, or the dense and ethereal, we create." Within the 6-by-4-foot welded-metal frame, a flowing bundle of copper rod is gently compressed between two warmly colored squares. A sense of union is palpable.

Three of Parrott's sculptural panels currently hang from the ceiling at the Luca Salon, located in the alley between Main and Second avenues near Eighth Street in downtown Durango. While these pieces stand on their own as sculptures, they are handsomely appealing as architectural elements that divide the salon's interior space.

I asked Parrott where he wanted to go next with his work. "Further," he responded, "I want to make more sculptures and beautiful things for people - playing with dimension, angles, form, texture, color, to see how it affects me and others and to see what else I have lurking in my soul." •

Preston Parrott's metal work can be seen at Luca Salon, Silver Thread Interiors and the Eco Home Center in Durango. Visit his website at www.bluegeminiproductions.com.