Dec. 31, 1926 –Nov. 6, 2012
Catherine Burchfield Parker, a popular local watercolorist, collaborative artist and the daughter of painter Charles Burchfield, died Tuesday morning at her residence in Paso Robles, Calif. She was 85.
Ms. Parker, the second-youngest of five children, grew up in Gardenville, a hamlet in West Seneca, where her famous father worked on paintings, now in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the local Burchfield Penney Art Center.
She moved away to go to art school as a young woman and returned at 57, after divorce, to begin to make a living as a painter in Buffalo, where she is remembered for her kind heart and interest in sharing art and its inspirations with people of all ages and disciplines.
“Catherine was a real presence,” said Sister Jeremy Midura, of St. Joseph’s University Church, where Ms. Parker was a member, and painted a series of modern interpretations of the Stations of the Cross. “I cannot imagine that she’s not part of this world. I think that she had a way of welcoming. She was just so open to new experiences.”
Ms. Parker started her studies at the Buffalo Art Institute before leaving in 1947 for the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, where she met and married a fellow student, commercial artist Kenneth Parker. They raised a family in Amarillo, Texas, where she played cello in the local amateur symphony.
It was in Buffalo in the past three decades that Ms. Parker made painting a full-time job, working most recently in a sunny second-floor studio in her house on Berkley Place and exhibiting extensively at local galleries and the Burchfield Penney, which featured her work in a show in 1999.
“I think of her as a multidimensional artist and creative person who lived in Buffalo, in Texas, in California, who traveled around the world, always producing,” said Nancy Weekly, curator at the Burchfield Penney, which has a collection of work Ms. Parker produced from girlhood to 2010. “We’re proud of her roots in Buffalo for sure and happy that her art can reflect on the rest of the world. I think it will always be relevant.”
Ms. Parker, who was cautious about being defined by her father’s reputation, took care to develop her own distinctive, fluid style and following of fans.
In her later years, her paintings – sometimes landscapes with trees, lilies, water and mountains and cityscapes with houses and grain elevators – resembled aspects of her father’s work: Her bright, thick strokes seemed to vibrate with life in a way that resembled the movement in his finer lines.
Ms. Parker’s Buffalo projects included founding an open artists’ salon, now named for her, which still holds regular meetings with wine, food and conversation about inspiration and art at her church.
Her collaboration with Roland Martin, St. Joseph’s music director, was based on the poems of Pablo Neruda, a favorite poet, and developed into a series of paintings, concerts and a book with a music CD insert called “A Rose Beside the Water.”
“She took inspirations from so many different things,” said granddaughter Vera Parker-Kennedy. “She took inspiration from music and travel and personal life and stories. That’s just what struck me the most. She absorbed things.”
Ms. Parker left Buffalo last summer to live near her daughter Christine Parker-Kennedy.
She also is survived by another daughter, Jennifer Lindberg; a son, Doug; and a brother, Art Burchfield.
Her husband is deceased.
Services have not been scheduled.
– Michelle Kearns