D.C. Artist Norman Parish Honored

Margaret Summers | 6/26/2013, 3 p.m.
Hundreds crowded into Georgetown's Parish Gallery to enjoy a reception and art exhibit opening for artist and gallery owner Norman ...
Doris Watson (left) and Yvette Watson admire a landscape painting by Norman Parish during the opening of the exhibit “Norman Parish: The Artist” on June 21 at the Parish Gallery in Georgetown. Photo by Roy Lewis

Hundreds crowded into Georgetown’s Parish Gallery on June 21 to enjoy a reception and art exhibit opening for artist and gallery owner Norman Parish, 75. It marked the first time Parish’s paintings, and only his paintings, were featured there.

“Our gallery holds about 75 people,” said Gwen Parish, Norman Parish’s wife, who is also 75. “But tonight we have about 300 to 400 people here.”

The honoree could not attend the show, titled “Norman Parish: The Artist.” He was too ill due to a brain tumor. “We are taking pictures and taping videos to show Norman so that he can see his opening,” Gwen Parish said.

Parish’s gallery at 1054 31st Street N.W., showcased art not only by Diaspora Africans but by all artists trying to break into the art world in the years that art galleries infrequently displayed works by artists of color, people of other ethnicities, or new artists.

During a reception presentation, Gwen Parish read a handwritten statement from her husband addressed to the guests. “I want to thank all the artists who have shown here in the gallery, and also all of you who have supported these artists and the gallery for the past 22 years. Art should be an important part of everyone’s life.”

After reading the statement, Gwen Parish, managing her emotions, added her own partly written and partly spontaneous remarks. “We are here to celebrate the fulfillment of Norm’s dream, which was to have a place to showcase art by artists first beginning their struggle, and (that of) the masters. This gallery has shown over 170 artists in 22 years.”

“The man I’ve loved for 25 years isn’t here physically, but he certainly is here spiritually,” she said.

Edwin Dunson, one of Norman Parish’s nephews, told the crowd, “This has been a hell of a journey. We’re so grateful and thankful that you are here to share it with us. I’d been telling him to do this (exhibit his own paintings) for years.”

After the presentation, Dunson, 34, of Rockville, Md., explained, “My uncle didn’t want the gallery and the showings to be only about him, but everyone else. Art was his hobby and his passion. Sometimes he was so focused on putting his shows together that he didn’t get into his own work. He was so dedicated to helping other artists by displaying their art in his gallery.”

Another nephew, Evan Fareed, 43, of Waldorf, Md., marveled at the number of people who showed up.

“The turnout for the reception and opening is overwhelming. I didn’t realize so many people would be here.”

“We’re not surprised at the turnout,” said Juanita Hardy, 63, a District art collector. Hardy and her art collector husband Mel, 63, who also attended the reception, co-founded the District’s nonprofit arts education organization, Millennium Art Salon. They worked with Parish on a New York City art exhibit called “Royal Blues Line” concerning an early 20th century train line which linked New York City and District artists.

“Look at this crowd,” Juanita Hardy said admiringly. “Not only are African-American artists here, but other groups. That’s because Norman embraces all cultures, all people. He is a loving, gentle, kind and considerate human being, who cares about artists. He is a role model.”

“I think this is a collective realization of what Norman has made to the Washington community and to artists,” said close friend and colleague Alla Rogers, who also owns a local art gallery. “It’s ironic that he didn’t allow himself to use his space for his own show (of his art).”

Parish’s exhibited paintings include colorful landscapes with such titles as “Scenic Rt. 40 to Mountain Road,” “Frostburg 1989,” “The Path,” and “Near Camp David.” The landscape paintings’ open skies, vivid mountains and trees with brilliant greens, blues and yellows, or autumn beiges and browns as in “Near Camp David,” reach out to the viewer and welcome them. There are also paintings of people, such as the African costumed and masked stilt walkers, and a woman and child resting. “These paintings are very optimistic and life affirming,” said Rogers.

“The exhibit will remain at the gallery for about two months,” Gwen Parish said.