Easier to ask what to leave out in introducing you to Wilma Parker than to know what to say. To keep this post easy to read, I am going to leave a lot for you to uncover yourself. When I was struggling to find community with other maritime artists, she was uniquely welcoming to me. While we were unable to meet, I still cherish her friendliness.
This young art student, graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and of the Art Institute of Chicago, arrived in San Francisco, California, in the 1960’s to join the hippie scene. That piercing West Coast light spoke volumes to her. Those ocean-going vessels loomed large in her imagination. Marine art is her subject, past and present, but always painted as part of the human project and the social world.
She expresses understandable pride over her “Amazing Grace”, which represents the USS Hopper (DDG 70), a vessel named for Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. Choosing to focus on the sun-washed upper structure, adorned with flags and bunting. I can almost hear the band playing!
She took three years to paint “Homecoming NASA,” now at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, on the San Francisco Bay. Just one of her major works that now hang in notable institutions across the USA.
For several years she was artist-in-residence aboard the USS Hornet, in the San Francisco Bay; here she welcomed and educated the public about maritime art in her studio on site.
SELECTED MEMBERSHIPS. U.S. Coast Guard Art Program, The American Society of Marine Artists, Tailhook , and the Salmagundi Club.
SELECTED HONORS. She received the George Gray Prize by the Coast Guard Art Program in 1994. In 2009, her art hung in the Robert Rauschenberg Tribute Show at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas. (Rauschenberg influenced her style.) The varied look of her work–over a long career, using a number of different media–show the development of a serious artist. Most of all, I think, she has defied the standard ‘military realism’ in her maritime art and succeeded just the same!
SELECTED VENUES. The National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida; Rotunda, House of Representatives, Washington DC; National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC. ; Los Angeles Maritime Museum; San Diego Maritime Museum; Naval Air Station, Alameda, Aviation Museum; Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, Connecticut; Mid–Atlantic Maritime Museum; Springfield Museum of Fine Arts.
LINKS. Visit Parker’s art website.
See her online exhibit Painting the Navy.
For many more paintings, find her artist page at Facebook.