Art or Nothing: S. Darius Parker’s Path From ADHD to Artistry

Art or Nothing:

S. Darius Parker’s Path From ADHD to Artistry

by Trelani Michelle

S. Darius Parker was introduced to art by his mother as a means of “satting down somewhere.” He was restless and his mind skipped thoughts just as fast as his feet needed to move. You could say he was hot-footed. As a child, however, this can be a little problematic in the classroom setting. His mother figured that, with an outlet to create and imagine out loud, as well as burn some energy, then the hyperness would level itself out. And it did.

“Dreams of Declaration” by S. Darius Parker
24 x 30 inches, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas — unframed (SOLD)

In addition to art, Parker also played sports. After high school, he moved from his hometown in West Georgia to Paine College, a private HBCU in Augusta, on a baseball scholarship. Playing basketball for Carver Bible College in Atlanta for a year was his next stop before joining the U.S. Air Force for five years. This allowed him to travel more expansively, which, as most artists will agree with, stimulates the creative process. Indulging in new sounds, tastes, and views while simultaneously pointing out the similarities and differences of how they’re living over there to how we’re living over here does wonders for our imagination.

“I found myself always in a means of doing things with arts and creativity,” Parker said. “Those are kind of the really big things that I just really love and, to me, it’s kind of understanding how different cultures communicate. Storytelling and being able to tell that story in different ways, learning it in different languages and the different ways people communicate—not only through emotion, physical; I feel like nonverbal communication is huge.”

Traveling is also a means of searching, but as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said best, “you come back home to find yourself there.” I asked him what he was searching for during his deployments in Korea and Japan, and, following a pregnant pause, his response was “Permission, I guess in a sense. Now I think it was more so permission for myself to kind of say to other people that I’ve proven I could do all that y’all said that I should do. Now it’s time to go back and do what I know I want to do.”

“Scarlett Lady” by S. Darius Parker
30 x 40 inches, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas — unframed

It was time to take the images and influences swirling around his head and make a reality of them. Actualize them. Play and practice. Experiment. See if it was possible to bust a U-turn and reclaim his childhood dream of being an artist while proving that, as BAIA founder Najee says, “Art dreams do come true.” But money wasn’t the motivator. Fulfillment was. The need to self-express and master the art of being perceptive was the goal.

“That was one of the things I learned from the military,” Parker explained, “is just being very perceptive of people’s emotions and ideas and thinking patterns. From there, I got a solid five years in the military, got out, did electronics and really kind of struggled with the design aspect. Until one day it was just kind of like art or nothing. I found myself in a small room and from there, I basically chose art over money.”

For the next 15 years, he worked as a graphic designer. “I kind of always wanted to do more with fine arts. And again, it was just aspects of more communicating and I felt [graphic design was] learning how to communicate through art. So, pretty much from there, my art career began. I started wanting to paint about two and a half years ago then I met Charly Palmer at the West End Print Shop.”

“Praying Woman” by S. Darius Parker
18 x 24 inches, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas — unframed

Just before meeting Charly, however, Parker had just resigned from his job and was praying for the opportunity to devote himself full-time to art. He’d even applied to SCAD for painting, but none of what he was hoping for panned out. As he put it “God had a better plan.” The spirits spoke. He honored what he was told, and the resources poured in—this time, in the form of a mentor. Charly was the first full-time Black artist that Parker had met. According to Charly’s website about his own art intentions, “From loose sketches and tight lines to blocks of color to nuances of mixed media, his art manifests in visual expressions to the questions, ‘What came before? What truth must be told?’”

Mentors hold up the proverbial mirror for us to see ourselves and to make sure we’re challenging ourselves and not just going with the status quo or what we feel will be accepted by society but to go deeper within and emerge with the courage to radically express what we discovered about our inner and outer worlds.

“A couple of things that I really like to tell stories about is our people, especially from that aspect of a Black man. In my perception, understand not only what Black identity is but kind of the process of what I feel is emasculation. I like to connect because I think we still have a lot of roots.”

“Grace” by S. Darius Parker
24 x 36 inches, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas — unframed (SOLD)

Scrolling through his portfolio on his website, a painting of Tupac Shakur, half Basquiated caught my eye and brought to mind Kendrick Lamar’s song “Mortal Man” in which he montaged an old interview of Tupac and said “[I] get behind a mic and I don’t know what type of energy I’ma push out or where it comes from. Trips me out sometimes because the spirits. We ain’t even really rappin. We just letting our dead homies tell stories for us.”

There’s also a painting of a Black man with locs that are two-strand twisted and dyed blonde with his head down and a screeching crow on top of his head. In another, a young Black woman with blue-green skin and blue-black hair has bolls of cotton atop her head and a screeching baby crow nestled in the cotton. Then there’s the gray-bearded Black man blindfolded with a red piece of cloth that has the Republican elephant on one side and the Democratic donkey on the other. Two crows sit on the man’s bald head, and the bigger one of the two has a dollar bill in its beak. Behind the man are shadowed figures with their fists raised high.

“I use the crow as a means to communicate, as a harbinger, a messenger, but also a lot of different aspects of lingering things from Jim Crow,” Parker shared. “If you read the letter of Willie Lynch, it says the things that they would teach us will last for a 1000 years, and we’re probably really only at about 500 or 400 and some odd years. So it’s kind of trying to show us how we still have those things attached to us so that we can start to detach ourselves from those things. And so that’s just kind of it. That’s just kind of my voice and just trying to communicate to our people and about our people.”

“Country Ties” by S. Darius Parker
24 x 36 inches, acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas — unframed

Darius Parker has an upcoming virtual exhibit with Black Art in America which will be his introductory show to our audience on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. I asked him what he wanted participants to not walk away but “click away” with, since it’s a virtual show. His response was for us to leave with “the sense of awareness of the things that we face but be empowered to know that we can and are overcoming them.”

One example of the issues we’re constantly confronted with as children of the African diaspora is balancing the truth of who we are with the need for economic survival. “I spent time in Corporate America,” Parker recalled, “and I felt like, as being the only black person in the room, I always had to answer for my entire race. We still have to kind of do that, and we still have to do it in a way that is unapologetic because we have to respect ourselves and who we are in that time and who our generation is, and tell that story. But I think that it’s always that battle against trying to eat too. And I think, in this current generation, it’s kind of two worlds: white guilt and increasing Black economics. And it’s the ability to ride that wave and create that voice in our next generation.”

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