acrylic on canvas
35 x 51 inches
acrylic on canvas
90 x 681/2 inches
Joseph Parker began having visions during a hypnosis session to cure his painful migraine headaches. He describes his experience of that session:
My body was heavy, then lighter. I flew out of my body. I was like a star—with no body. There were lights… love…yellowish like gold. I was in that light before I was born. I came from that light.
Through this experience, Parker was transformed from his prior atheism to a deep faith in the reality of spirit.
Originally Joseph Schwartz, Parker was born January 6, 1930 to Jewish parents in Stropkof, Czechoslovakia. From an early age, Joseph was recognized as a talented young artist. But his creativity was put on hold with the onset of World War II. The Schwartz family survived Nazi Germany hidden in a hillside bunker for two and a half years, cared for by the kindness of local neighbors. After his sister died in a concentration camp, Joseph lost his faith in God and proclaimed that he was an atheist.
Post WWII, with Europe in chaos, Parker’s family escaped the communist take-over of Czechoslovakia to settle first in Vienna and then Paris. Joseph became fluent in seven languages, including Russian, German, Slovac, Latin, Hebrew, French, English, and Polish. When the family decided to move to Australia, Joseph Schwartz, in order to overcome anti-Semitism, changed his name to Joseph Parker. In order to support himself, Parker studied and became a successful accountant.
In the late ‘50’s, extreme migraine headaches drove Parker to seek alternative therapy from an occultist who performed hypnosis. During this session, Joseph had an out-of-body experience where he was absorbed by the bright, pure light of Divine love, birthplace of the Living Soul. This epiphany opened Parker to a spiritual investigation that included a study of Norman Vincent Peale, Rosicrucianism, and other forms of mysticism. Joseph declared that he was no longer an atheist. From that point on, an “inner voice” spoke to Joseph acting as a divine counselor, interpreting his mystical experience.
Increasingly dissatisfied with his career as an accountant, Parker devoted himself to Rosicrucianism, joined the Theosophical Society, and took up singing and playing a musical instrument. A second epiphany in 1962, allowed Parker to overcome his fears of failure and financial ruin, and choose the life of an artist. He studied art briefly in Sydney and then moved to Paris and later Israel. His life in Israel and later in India, led to encounters with spiritual leaders such as the chief of the Rosicrucian order, the head of Jain Buddhism, and the well-known Indian philosopher, Krishnamurti. Parker continued traveling, settling next in Mexico where he attended two art schools and began a career as a portrait painter.
Continuing to travel, he moved to the U.S. in 1977 and lived in San Francisco where a Chicago writer, Gregory Vlamis saw and began collecting Parker’s paintings. With Vlamis as his ally, Parker exhibited his work in numerous galleries including the Walther Kelly Gallery in Chicago and sold paintings to many private collectors, corporations and museums including the Art Institute of Chicago. Parker was one of the featured artist in an exhibition at the cutting-edge P.S. 1 Gallery in New York City, his first exposure in the New York gallery scene.
Learning of his work in New York, E.B. and Maureen Smith became Joseph’s most active collectors until they lost track of his whereabouts as he moved across the country in a RV, painting wherever he traveled. Joseph cared little about the prestige of galleries or the lure of money and decided to give up painting in 1991 to commit himself to studying the “divine scheme.” The Smith’s later found him in Desert Hot Springs and convinced him to recommence painting, supported by their generous patronage.
Joseph’s wife, Joyce, describes his work in the following way: “There is no simple explanation of Parker’s landscapes. They are intended to be experienced as visions of a transcendental level of existence. In his paintings, the sun is the source of all being, like a divine light fanning fantastically across the canvas, illuminating a purer world of calm water and exotic plants.”
Joseph Parker’s psychedelic sunsets are like plein-air painting from an altered state of consciousness, like a clairvoyant glimpse of heaven, an inner world illumination of spectral color and jewel like infinite patterns. The following is Parker’s description of his painting, “Portrait of Ra.”
"Ra, God of the sun, is the supreme ruler of this solar system, and dwells inside the Spiritual Sun that surrounds the physical sun. On the bottom of the painting I painted a landscape with far away mountains so as to give the viewer a feel of the size of the God. The center of the being is too brilliant, and it is not possible with man-made paints to paint such brilliancy. Therefore I have put in the center a heart and a golden rose with rays going out from the center in all directions. The patterns of designs emanating from the being are constantly changing so that those souls that are privileged to come into the presence of the holy being are awed by the display of divine splendor."
In Aldous Huxley's 1959 lecture, “Natural History of Visions,” Huxley articulates the visionary realm as “…jewel-like luminescence evoking clarity in its multi-faceted and transparent shimmer and iridescent hues.” This description evokes Parker’s world, a spectral world with one-point perspective using the symbol of the ascending path up the mountainous road to enlightenment.
In Parker’s own words:
"Attaining the mountain top has a spiritual meaning as follows: All human souls on this planet are in a school of learning to perfect themselves in order to attain a higher state of being. I have painted the mountains very steep because as the soul masters the difficulties on the path, more difficult tests lie ahead. Once the soul reaches the peak, it attains what the Buddhists call Nirvana. Then the soul does not need to be reborn, but continues its evolution in the Spiritual Sun that surrounds the physical sun. On the top of the mountain is a holy being radiating out love in all directions."
Joseph Parker is one of the great mystic painters of the late 20th century. Mysticism, according to The Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, is summarily defined as: "an apprehension of an ultimate non-sensuous unity in all things, a direct apperception of deity, the art of union with reality, an immediate contact or union of the self with a larger-than-self." Images of paradise can be found in the literature of all the world’s wisdom paths. The visionary abode of Buddha, as described in the Flower Ornament Sutra, is “made of jewels of various colors and decorated with all kinds of precious flowers. The various adornments emanated lights like clouds.” Joseph Parker’s vision-scapes of the soul confirm the ideal world described by Socrates in the Phaedo, a world beyond compare to that which we know. "In this other earth the colors are much purer and more brilliant than they are down here. The mountains and stones have a richer gloss, a livelier transparency and intensity of hue."
Walter Hopps, former curator of the Smithsonian Institute and Senior Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, included Joseph Parker’s work among the California visionaries celebrated in his decisive book of 1977, Visions. Hopps describes the artist as presiding “over his model universe like an ecstatic god, bestowing it with a wealth of finely detailed contour, texture and local color, all executed with a consummate, meticulous, precision-tooled craftsmanship, breathtaking in its hyper-real clarity."
Parker worked from the memory of his super-conscious visions. His kaleidoscopic skies, like Persian rug sunsets, present complex, mandalic haloes radiating from a brightly dawning, transcendental sun. Great artists map a new region in our consciousness, and their depictions allow us to visit the Divine imagination where, in the words of Ibn Arabi, “God meets God.” Parker’s body of work evokes the heavenly world to come. As there is a "Blake Land,” a "Fuchs World" and a "Mati Klarwein Island,” there is a mapped area of awareness called " Joseph Parker.” Joseph Parker painted the sun’s rays expanding out in boundless brocade tapestries, patterned fields of rich color, both intricate and elegantly simple. The recurring motif of a centralized sun over landscape, ocean or mountain, became emblematic as Parker’s signature.
In an homage to Joseph Parker, in December of 2008 Alex began the painting, “Ocean of Love Bliss.” Two lovers in the ocean embrace before a sky resonant with the patterns of Joseph Parker. In the hearts of the lovers is a bright light, shared by the sunrise. While painting this piece we got the tragic news of Joseph Parker's death. Thank you, Joseph Parker, for mapping an authentic aesthetic advancement toward super-consciousness. There are few artists that paint heaven. Joseph Parker was one of the greatest.
Joseph Parker died to this world, at age 79, at 6:30 a.m. on May 17, 2009, in Desert Hot Springs, CA.
With appreciation to E.B. Smith, Jr. for providing the most complete biography approved by the artist, and to iasos.com for offering direct quotes from Joseph Parker himself.