Nathaniel Parsons installation. (Courtesy of Gallery 16)

Nathaniel Parsons' Solo Exhibit Is an Invitation to Make Things Happen


Prepare to get involved with the artwork.

Before starting to explore Together We Make Things Happen, a solo exhibition by Oakland artist Nathaniel Parsons at Gallery 16, we highly recommended grabbing one of the hand carved wooden viewfinders. The reason is simple. You're in for a journey in which you will be invited to narrow your gaze and focus on the specific elements of each piece, as well as widen your view to see the big picture. "I try to be overwhelming on purpose, so the viewfinder I created will help you to isolate some of the details. Take a breath and focus on where you want to go," says the artist.

Leave Your Mark by Nathaniel Parsons

Inspired by the Trees of Mystery tourist attraction way up in Klamath, the exhibition is built like a park. "The idea is to walk inside and see all these stories. You'll come out with some morals and parables, which will hopefully transform of your beliefs," says Parsons. Together envisions a sort of Americana-esque path to investigate the relationship with nature, landscape, friends and family memories. It is an invitation to participate in the artist's process of questioning life experiences—how do we coexists and compose our personal and shared histories? The installation comprises more than 100 pieces, including paintings, sculptures and words.

Stacked Pic-Nic Tables by Nathaniel Parsons

At the entrance of the gallery there are stacked barrels with signs that read, "No Re Entry," "What goes in dirty," "Comes out clean." On the left side of the main door there is a water fountain made of coolers, and on the right side, a souvenir shop filled with an array of objects and books. This first part of the exhibition wants to emphasize the fragility of human beings when immersed in a natural landscape. "I painted a camper without a wheel to symbolize bringing your home to nature but then something goes wrong, and you need to change your attitude, your plan, and your initial intention, " explains Parsons. Go a little further and you'll see a reproduction of the legendary firefall in Yosemite. "I am not trying to paint pretty pictures, but I am trying to paint something that has a criticality, that evokes a meaning that goes beyond the image you see."

We are the Medium by Nathaniel Parsons

In the corner, there is a series of words painted on the wall that defines the vocabulary of the exhibition. "This list can help people better understand the development of the work and its narrative," says the artist. At this point, the storytelling changes to unveil a personal life story about his relationship with his friends and his family. Parsons was raised in a family of artists. His father is a sculptor and his mother is a painter. "Sometimes, while I am painting, I'll take a break to carve some piece of wood," he says. "My mom and my dad influenced my art and I am honoring what they gave me." // Nov. 10–Dec. 21, Gallery 16, 501 Third St. (SoMa),

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