When I was in grad school I had to study my own art and artistic process and write a thesis about it. It was then that I discovered the niche where my art belongs in the Art World – a style called Magic Realism.

The term “Magic Realism” was first used by Franz Roh in his book, Nach-expressionismus (Post-Expressionism) written in 1925.  He later used the same term in 1968 in his new book German Art in the 20th Century.  He also called this new development in art “The New Objectivity” (F. Roh, German Art in the 20th Century. Greenwich: New York Graphic Society, 1968, 112.) By using the term Magic Realism Roh is referring to Post-Expressionistic artwork in which some mystery or secret seems to be hidden within the subject matter.  As opposed to Expressionism, “Magic Realism emphasizes the object and the everyday life in new and unfamiliar ways.  Juxtapositions of sharply rendered and detailed elements, both in the foreground and back ground, are used to develop an air of mystery or ambiguity.  They remind us that there are still many mysteries in life.”  http://www.tendreams.org/magic-art.htm

Roh used the following dichotomies to highlight the differences between Expressionism and Magic Realism:

Expressionism: Magic Realism:
Ecstatic subjects
Close-up view
Thick color texture
Emphasis on the visibility of the
painting process
Expressive deformation
Sober objects
Puristically severe
Close and far view
Thin paint surface
Effacement of the
painting process
External purification of the object
(Roch. 113)

I found more similarities with my artwork among the attributes of Magic Realism than Expressionism.  I believe that my style developed more towards representational, quiet, static images in painting, turning daily life into eerie form, with a thin paint surface, although I experimented with the opposite qualities as well, never finding much satisfaction in them. Some of my works are more surrealistic (Caged and If I Could Have Opened My Heart), while others (In the Room With Memories or In the Room With the Magic Ball) can be referred to as Magic Realism.

In Art History, Magic Realism acted as a portal to Surrealism, and many artists shifted back and forth from one to another, especially Magritte (Roch, 138).  When I discovered the website ww.tendreams.org  I found a few artists there who I knew before and considered them as influences, but did not realize that they belonged to the Magic Realism group, among them Andrew Wyeth, George Tooker and Charles Scheeler. These artists sometimes crossed the boundaries between Surrealism, Symbolism and Magic Realism. My work also shifts back and forth across the boundaries of Surrealism and Magic Realism, while a large number of other works as you can see on my website www.allaparsons.com are just studies from life: Figure, Still Life and Landscape. I feel the need to work on these Life Studies and I am constantly working to improve my skills in observational drawing and painting. However I consider Magic Realism my major work which takes a longer time to go through the process in my mind, before ripening and appearing, first on sketchbook pages and then on canvas.


William Cumming

I just stumbled upon an interesting article about William Cummings. He expressed ideas similar to mine: Bill Cumming. 1960s.

“There is only art. Every single human being is born containing an artist, and this being invents art for itself at around the age of three when, without any teaching or coaching or indoctrination, it invents shape.”

He believed firmly that training in “so-called commercial art” is superior to university art schools because students develop skills that allow them to survive in the world, to understand how the art world operates, and to handle the financial end of working as an artist. “Fine art is a war,” he said. “I hate fine art with all its fuss and crap. Fine art students are brought up in a spirit of contempt for people. Of course I paint for the market. So did Rembrandt. So did Titian. It’s high time we quit compartmentalizing art, and leave graduating students thinking they need a grant to make a living.”

William Cumming My Dog

William Cumming My Dog

He taught his students, “You have a right to make money out of art. To make money out of art, you have to create art which someone wants to buy. It’s okay if your drawing is crude. That’s how nature meant it to be. The question is how do you turn crude into a marketable commodity.”

This is something that I would say to my students too. I wanted to share this with you. See the entire article at: http://www.historylink.org

Exiting News! The Florence Academy of Art purchased its new building!

Daniel Graves at FAA New Campus from digiQualia on Vimeo.


Dear friends! Please, come to the opening of my exhibition “Magic Realism”.

The reception will be on Friday, March 21 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History. The address of the Museum is: 975 Main Street, Danville, VA. Phone (434) 793-5644.

The exhibition will last till May 25.
The reception is free and open to public.


2. Second from the top left is again a scene from a real photograph depicting my mother as a student in a classroom with her mother as a teacher. My grandmother was an elementary school teacher and taught my mother during her first years in school. She later taught me to read, write, and draw and basically everything as well. I pasted a gigantic portrait of Lenin on the wall. Portraits of Lenin and Stalin were the norm in the Soviet classrooms. On the left there is a poster with the text: “Bring the soldiers at the front joy with excellence in your studies”. This reflects on the time of that photograph – it was done during  the Second World War – the Great Patriotic War as we called it in Russia. My mother’s father lost his eye in that war. My father’s father never came back home.

Вторая картинка слева сделана с настоящей фотокарточки. Моя мама сидит в классе, а учительница за ее спиной – моя бабушка – мамина мама. Моя бабушка была учительницей начальных классов. Это она научила меня читать, писать и рисовать, а текже многому другому, напрмер, свистеть в два пальца. На стене висит гигантский портрет Ленина. Это некоторое преувеличение действительности, хотя на самом деле в школах тогда всюду висели портреты Ленина и Сталина. Справа лозунг – “Порадуй Фронт Отличной Учебой” – это уже не выдумка, а как на фотографии. Снимок сделан во время Великой Отечественной войны. У бабушки на груди – орден Героя Труда. В школе ее очень уважали.


3. This is also a real photo. Mother and her father go to dig potatoes. During and after the war there was a shortage of food. Everybody tried to find a spot of land to grow some vegetables. Potatoes was a staple food. My mother’s family were lucky to have a little piece of land somewhere out of town. On this photo my Mom is already a college student, she is visiting back home with her parents and accompanying her father in his agricultural duties.

Это еще одна настоящая фотография. Мама идет со своим папой (моим дедушкой) окучивать картошку. У них был маленький клочок земли на окраине города. Дедушка туда наведывался регулярно, и мама пошла помогать, когда приехала на каникулы из другого города где была уже студенткой института.


4. This is another real photograph – my mother with her friends when they were hiking in the mountains. She was born and raised in the Ural mountains – an area with incredibly beautiful nature and she loved the nature and travelling with friends.

Еще одна настоящая фотка. Мама с друзьями в горах. Она была отличницей и активисткой: учавствовала во всех возможных кружках, в том числе и Клубе Туризма, у нее было множество друзей.


5. One of those friends she fell in love and he became my father (about whom there will be another story). In the meanwhile she was happy and this was my favorite photo of the two of them.

Один из этих друзей стал ее мужем и моим отцом, о котором – отдельная история. Это моя любимая фотография, где они вдвоем и мама – счастлива.


6. Writing her Doctoral dissertation was from my mother’s words another significant event in her life. Or I would rather say a “Chapter” in her life, because she was writing it for a very long time. First she was taking care of her husband who was behind her in his education and she was cooking and cleaning for him to help him finish college. Then she was cooking and cleaning and taking care of the children to help him finish HIS Doctoral dissertation. And only after all that she would allow herself to work on her own research. Her area of studies was concrete. She was a construction engineer. Not a very exciting area from my point of view. My mother claimed it was very interesting. But I did not believe her. This is one of my “invented” photographs. I see her studying in the library after all her cooking and cleaning, and after the children were already grown up enough to be left at home by themselves. She is tired and falling asleep while reading about concrete ingredients. I actually found one of her articles online and pasted it as a text-collage in this small image.

Со слов моей мамы – написание диссертации – одно из важных моментов ее жизни. Я бы назвала это скорее “Главой жизни”, т.к. написание заняло очень много времени: больше десяти лет. Сначала она чистила, мыла и готовила для любимого мужа который учился в техникуме на вечернем, чтобы дать ему возможность поступить в университет. Потом чтобы дать ему возможность закончить университет. Потом, чтобы дать ему возможность написать и защитиьь его диссертацию, потом дети были все еще маленькие… В результате, она защитилась сама, уже когда они почти что развелись. Это “изобретенная” фотография. На ней я вообразила как мама сидит в библиотеке после кухни, уборок и стирок, читает про свой железо-бетон (это была ее специализация, она была – инженер-строитель) и засыпает над книками. В  книгу раскрытую перед ней я вклеила (коллаж) статью про железо-бетон (нашла в интернете).


7. Birth of her first child. I have heard this story many times, and this is an “invented photograph”. My mother was breastfeeding her first child (my brother)  and it was April 12, 1961. And She heard on the radio that the First Man is in Space – Yuri Gagarin! Her heart was filled with joy and pride! She is breastfeeding her FIRST child and the FIRST man is in Space! She imagined a very bright future for her FIST child and for the whole of human kind. If you meet her now, she will still tell you this story with great enthusiasm and ecstatic feeling. The radio is in the top right part of the image.

Рождение первого ребенка. Эту исорию я слышала много раз. Это опять же “изобретенная” фотография. Моя мама кормит грудью своего первого ребенка, сына (моего брата) 12го апреля 1961 года. Во время кормления она слышит по радио объявление: “Первый Человек в Космосе!” Мою маму охватывает великая гордость и космические чувства, так как она видит аналогию ее Первый ребенок и Первый человек в Космосе! И по сегодняшний день она испытывает сильные чувства по этому поводу. Я нарисовала радио на стенке в маленькой комнатке которую они снимали.


8. After I was born and breastfed for 4 months, my parents brought me to my mom’s parents who lived in a small town, about 1-2 hours trip by train or bus. It was probably too much for my mother to cook and clean for my father and her first child and to care for me as well. I was better off with my grandparents. As I mentioned earlier, my grandmother was an elementary school teacher and she raised me since I was 4 months till 4 years old. My first memories are from my grandparents small apartment with a view of the Ural mountains from the windows. My grandmother taught me to read and write, she taught me how to draw and when I was leaving them to go back to live with my parents I cried and I missed her so much. She told me to always look at the star at night and tell her Goodnight, and she will hear and tell me Goodnight back. I did. I think she can still hear me through the star. But during the time when I lived with my grandparents I missed my mother very much. Every time when she visited I was very happy and cried when she was leaving. This is the scene when my mother is leaving and we are saying Goodbye at the train station.


9. Potato Picking duties. Every September brought Potato picking duties for all  people living in the Soviet Union’s cities and towns. Students with their teachers from schools and colleges, PhDs and their Lab Assistants from the research institutions had to go to the villages and kolhoz to help the farmers  pick potatoes, or carrots, or beets… I usually went with my mother for a few days. I went with my school also but that was usually for just one day. I and many other young people saw it as fun, but of course it was physically challenging work and our backs were hurting after it for a while. As I look back – it was not the best use of all those intellectuals’ time and probably happened to be one of many reasons for the “brain-drain” in the Soviet Union.

На картошке. Русскоговорящим не надо обхъяснять что это такое. Студенты, школьники, учителя, профессора, Кандидаты наук и соискатели – все должны были ехать “на картошку” в сентябре. Это моя мама – кандидат наук – собирает картошку в ведро. Славное было время!

See Part 1  here

Начало –  здесь



The image in the center is a watercolor painting made from a photo of my mother I took during our trip from Florida when we visited the University of Virginia in 2004. After that the idea was born to use this portrait for a bigger painting and add small scenes on the edges. This idea was influenced by the structure of Russian icons where the main image of a Saint is in the center and the smaller images “klejma” are located on the sides, illustrating the Saint’s life.  So, in “My Mother’s Life” her portrait is surrounded by the most important scenes of her life. I conducted a series of interviews with my mother clarifying which events in her life she considered the most important. Some of the events SHE considered the most important I used in the painting. For example, one is “the birth of her first child, the son” (let me note that it was not me). Some of the events I had to add by myself. Some of the small images are based on real life photos and some on “invented photos”  – the pictures I saw in my imagination, but based on real facts of my mother’s life.

First in the series of small images (top, left) is the detail of a real photograph. My mother is sitting on a chair, she is maybe 2 or 3 years old and her face looks angry. My mother told me she felt angry and unhappy when they took her photo, because she had to pose in an old coat. She inherited that coat from her older brother, as he did from somebody else. She felt that the coat was very old and ugly and she felt terrible that she had her photo taken in such an ugly coat. She later told me about her  thought process: <<Why did we always say in school “Thank you to the Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood!” while in fact I am not that happy – I have such an old coat?>>. That moment I depicted in this first image and that’s why there is a text there in Russian, translated as “Thank you to the Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood!”


Центральный портрет был написан с фото которое было сделано в Америке, на территории университета Вирджинии, когда мама приезжала к нам мы жили во Флориде, в 2004 году.  Я решила использовать это фото для портрета, но потом родилась идея – дополнить портрет сценами из ее жизни, заимствуя идею Русских Икон. В “житийных” иконах в центре всегда стоит большой образ святого, а вокруг – маленькие картинки – “клейма” с изображениями жития святых. Так и в “Жизни Мой Мамы” ее жизнь – наиболее значтельные сцены – по краям в маленьких картинках. С мамой были проведены небольшие интервью, проливающие свет на те части ее жизни, которые она считала наиболее важными. И кое-что было принято во внимание. Так, например, одно из наиболее важных событий в ее жизни было “рождение первого ребенка, сына” (примечание, я не была ни первым ребенком, ни сыном). Но некоторые важные события в жизни были определены мною, по моему собственному усмотрению. Некоторые “картинки из жизни” были прямые заимствования из существующих фотографий, а некоторые – были “изобретенными фотографиями” и я изобразила некоторые моменты просто из воображения.

Первая картинка – это прямое заимствование старой фотографии. Мама маленькая, ей года 2 или 3, она сидит на стуле и лицо ее очень сердитое. По ее словам, она помнит, что была очень недовольна фактом, что ее фотографируют, а она сидит в старом пальто. Пальто ей досталось от старших братьев, а им – еще от кого-то. Она действительно очень страдала от осознания уродливости этого старого пальто, и в те моменты ее маленькую детскую голову пришла мысль – <а почему в школе мы всегда говорим “Спасибо Товарищу Сталину за наше счастливое детство!” ? Когда на самом деле я себя совсем не чувствую счастливой и у меня таое старое пальто?>. Это я и изобразила. В нижней части – текст  “Спасибо Товарищу Сталину за наше счастливое детство!”


Part 2

My Mother’s Life

My Mother's Life

My Mother’s Life. Mixed media: watercolor, acrylic on canvas and paper.2006.

%d bloggers like this: