Natalya Borisovna Parris’ basic and advanced degrees in construction engineering from the Moscow State Construction University built a foundation for her creative endeavors in the art world. “My dots connect my experience of making engineering drawings by hand to the present time when I use those dots to create my artworks,” said Parris, an award-winning artist and art educator who has lived in Gaithersburg since her arrival in the U.S. in 1995.
“Emotional Counterpoints in Paint–Dots Artworks” is the name Parris uses for her artistic style that is based on her experience as a construction engineer. She overlays dots onto sections of a previously painted picture. Her engineering experiences perfected the precision of the dots that she “piles on one another and, the dots, like music notes, interact with the rhythm of the melody creating emotional counterpoints in a three-dimensional painting,” she said.
Parris applies a “a modern, contemporary interpretation” to the Russian folk art that inspires her. The Russian genre “can be viewed as a cornucopia of art because there are so many different folk art traditions and styles,” she said. “In such a big and ancient country, there is an endless source of material for study and inspiration.” She often focuses on a theme to create her series, such as her most recent “Memories of Hillwood,” which was stimulated by a visit to Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate, which is noted for its extensive collection of Russian imperial art.
In 2006, Parris began working as a gallery coordinator, director, and curator for the City of Gaithersburg. She shares her knowledge, talent, and skills through classes and camps she teaches at the Arts Barn in the Kentlands, Sunrise’s senior facility in Montgomery Village, BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, and the Damascus Community Recreation Center.
Acrylic is her medium of choice because the paints dry quickly and “gives me the opportunity to paint with bright, vibrant colors on different surfaces…I am hopelessly optimistic, very energetic, and a passionate and enthusiastic person…subconsciously, I choose for my art bright, happy colors,” she noted. Many of her floral compositions feature rich colors, which she describes as “expressions of my connection with nature, its beauty, and its nurturing and healing effect on the soul.”
Parris hears about the cathartic impact of art from her students, old and young. A Sunrise resident told her, “When I am in your art class, I forget about aches, pains, and all my troubles. I forget about time, it flies. I feel happy.” Among her Sunrise students were retired doctors, writers, teachers, military veterans, and even professional artists. “Most of them come to class with the words, ‘I could not paint, I do not know how to do it.’ But, when they start to create, they are amazed by the result and it gives them hope, perspective in life, and confidence,” Parris said.
One of her 5-year-old students exclaimed, “I love art! I could not live without art!” She said that children tend to be more free spirited and express themselves easily. “They do not try to impress themselves or other people. They just want to create and are very happy and proud of their creations,” Parris observed. “Adults, especially the ones who were very successful in previous careers and want to learn to paint after they retired, are afraid that their paintings might look like children’s art…that they would not be able to create beautiful art and that their work might be ridiculed.”
In January, Parris began to dabble in electronic technology with her “new passion,” digital photography. The immediate results of digital formatting clicked with her and linked to her “first love,” civil engineering. “It gives me an opportunity to create a dream world with fantasies in vivid colors or to emphasize the focus and hidden message in the photograph,” she said. An original photograph of poor quality and a desire to save memories prompted her to “make lemonade out of the lemons life gave me…This is the main principle of my life and art that I want my students to adopt, because mistakes you make while creating your art could be your best blessing and it gives you a chance to generate a unique art beyond your original plan,” Parris explained.
“Very often when viewers see my paintings, they ask me, ‘How did you do it?’ But, I always let them guess because one of the purposes of my artwork is to encourage people to exercise their imagination, fantasy, and ingenuity.”
Parris’ works will be on display at “Americana,” the Arts Barn’s second annual Faculty Exhibit: through Aug. 29, with an Education Open House and Artist Reception set for Aug. 4, 6 to 8 p.m. From Aug. 1 to 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Parris will teach an Exploring American Art summer camp program for students, ages 7 to 11.