Hobos and Oracles

Peter Parpan delivers his first exhibit of paintings at PUSH Gallery this month, sharing the gallery with colleague Justin Offner. Both artists have worked as illustrators for animation companies; their expertly rendered characters and active narratives evidence the influence of the commercial arts on their work.

Offner, who lives in New York City, displays an amusing series of hobos and train hoppers painted on on wood panels. Using a palette of vintage blues, greens, beige and browns, Offner’s depiction of Depression-era vagrants is engaging and cheeky. Offner painted skulls and other ornamentation directly onto the walls of the gallery, evoking the graffiti commonly associated with trains.

Parpan’s side of the gallery is much more varied, with colorful paintings of a character he refers to as “the oracle” set into different scenarios. A straightforward form that appears in most of the paintings, the oracle resembles ET with his flattened head and huge eyes. He always appears with one arm shorter than the other. “I wanted to create a simple character that was easy to draw to add to my visual vocabulary,” says Parpan.

Parpan has also developed a group of characters he considers hybrids of Eastern religion, tribalism and science fiction, possessing no specific race or creed. “What I noticed is that the oracle always has his eyes wide open, while these other characters have closed eyes — like in a state of meditation,” says Parpan.

Only in one painting, “The Next Level,” do the two sets of characters app ear in the same piece. The painting was the last one produced for the show; Parpan plans to continue integrating the two families of characters into future paintings.
      An art teacher at Asheville High School, Parpan says he painted his work intuitively – not dwelling on concepts or reasons why he painted what he did.

Much of the work, Parpan noticed later, deals with the dichotomy of darkness and light and good against bad. In “Tantric Goddess,” a woman painted in pink and lavender shades is swarmed by a mass of small, black, squid-like creatures. In “Skewered,” a wooden rod impales an unearthly beast. A palette of soft blues cushions the dramatic undertow of the narrative, and the painting is actually quite sweet. “It’s all about slaying your demons,” says Parpan.

The show hangs until Sunday, Sept. 12. Info at, and

Empirical Ephemera

Next time you’re in the River Arts District be sure to check out the solo show of Tracy Kirchmann, an MFA student of sculpture at Western University. A glass blower for more than 10 years, she helped create a forge and hot shop at the Jackson County Green Energy Park, an arts studio located in Dillsboro that fuels its fires with the methane gas of the old town landfill. Kirchmann’s sculptures incorporate altered found glass, her own forged and found-metal objects and other relics.

The show reflects the artist’s “own brand of science.” “I wanted to create an environment that reflects the topography of my mind – my memories, family and past experiences,” says Kirchmann. Giant cylinders filled with fluids await the viewer at the entrance of the gallery. Inside one of the cylinders rests an elaborately detailed heart of glass. The piece seems to concern itself with memories and concepts of biological regeneration.

Walking through the room, one encounters sculptures of bottles and giant plant roots, candles and light bulbs, an iron birdcage with a glass birds nest, IV bags made of glass filled with a red liquid, and photographs disintegrating within bottles of water. The end result is spooky and captivating — like discovering an abandoned medical laboratory in the attic of an old, deserted house.

Empirical Ephemera will be on display at FLOOD Gallery though Tuesday, Aug. 31.

— Ursula Gullow writes about art for Mountain Xpress and her blog,

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