Looking at the overlooked
By Becca Costello
Photo By Larry Dalton
When I arrived at M. Parfitt's
house, the first thing she did
was unroll the poop quilt. The
piece, titled Wilbur's Opinion
a cherished pet, is composed of
hundreds of photos of dog
explained that she documented her
dog's backyard visits for a year
the pictures and that no two are
alike. She chose only the most
shapes and even fed Wilbur corn
and carrots to influence his
process." Once I got over my
initial "I can't believe I'm
poop" reaction, I started to
appreciate the astonishing variety
shapes and textures, which is
exactly the point. Parfitt's art,
with hair, blood, forgotten
photos, lint and other typically
invites the observer to take
another look at things that almost
a second glance. It's an approach
that won her the $1,000 first
the 73rd Crocker-Kingsley
exhibition last month at the
Crocker Art Museum.
Were you surprised you won
I was totally shocked. I wasn't
even sure my piece was in the
there's a round of judging by
slides. Then, they tell you to
piece in for the second round, so
I did, and they said, "If we don't
accept it, we'll let you know." I
never heard from them. I assumed
it got in, but I didn't really
know. I thought maybe I'd missed a
call. So, we went to the
reception, and they handed us the
we didn't even open. If we'd
opened them, we'd have seen a
picture of the
piece right inside. We wandered
back, and there was my piece. I
there it is! It actually made it
in." Then, I noticed the sign that
said first prize, and I just
dropped everything. I couldn't
I never thought I would win,
especially with Gladys Nilsson
being the juror.
I've admired her work for years.
She's an excellent painter and a
artist. For her to pick my piece
just shocked the hell out of me.
What was the winning piece?
I collect old photographs and
books. I took about 70 old
of women, and I found little bits
of text to put under each one. I
the pages and smeared blood all
over them, so a lot of it's
and other words are emphasized.
You can't get a complete story out
piece of text, but you can get an
idea by reading a couple of words.
piece of text was about
constrictive behavior--how you're
supposed to dress,
how to wear your corset, how to do
your housecleaning, how to behave
your husband, how to behave in
public. It's all about behavior
supposed to fall in line with. I
combined the two and added rows of
vertically, throughout the piece.
I like working with lint because
something people throw away. They
don't notice it, but it's really
material, the colors and the
textures. It ties in with how
these women were
treated. They were sort of ignored
and invisible, unless they
behaviors. Their lives were
insignificant, just like the lint.
But, if you
look at the lint, it's really
interesting, so maybe these women
lives, too. So, I sewed all that
up as a quilt.
Victoria Dalkey, who reviewed
the Crocker-Kingsley exhibition
the Sacramento Bee, criticized
the use of text in art. Why do
you use text
in your work?
I think it adds another
dimension. You can read as much as
You can look past the blood and
try to figure out what the words
can glance at it and read a few
words or just look at it visually,
of the composition. I like to hint
at ideas from books, throw in
might not be apparent if it was
just photos and color.
What's the most unusual thing
you've used in your art?
I used to save my dog's nail
clippings. I used them in a house
They kind of formed a path and
looked like pebbles.
You use a lot of blood.
I started using it maybe seven
years ago. I wanted to make a
looked like it was stained with
blood. I tried acrylic paint, silk
and watercolors. Nothing looked
like blood. It looked like paint.
one day I had my period, and I
thought, "Well, why not try
and it worked. I like the way it
looks. You get thick clots and
bits and chunks. It changes color
when it oxidizes. It's fun to work
because you really can't control
Do people assume you're going
for "shock value" in your
art because of the blood?
Some people don't even know what
they're looking at. Other people
know it's menstrual blood, and
they assume I cut myself to do it.
have any real deep significance
for me other than the fact that I
color and the texture.
What inspires you?
I like looking at things that
people throw away or overlook. I
up from the gutter on my way to
work--scraps of paper and stuff.
liked ... the idea of recycling
things and making them useful
What is the role of the artist
Art, to me, is fun. I don't
believe in suffering for it.
are tortured should be a in a
different business, obviously. I
fun to me, and I hope people like
looking at it. I like to see
at my work. That's my role
as an artist, to have fun.
copyright 2002 Sacramento News