Interview: Kyle Parker

Artist Showcase Interview: Kyle Parker
Conducted By: Sparks
Written By: Cassandra Litten

Sparks, Kyle and I have been friends for so long, it feels impossible to imagine going through life without them. When Kyle calls us on FaceTime from his apartment in Chicago, the happiness of seeing each other face-to-face is almost palpable. We immediately fall into the easy routine of chatting and laughing, as though we were all in the same state, the same city, the same apartment. We are excited to be working together.

“How are you? How was your Friday?” Sparks asks, a basic enough question, but when put in front of Kyle, one can never know what kind of honest, but charmingly showy, answer he will give.

True to form, Kyle, with his pinky raised, dramatically pushes back his perfectly coiffed hair.
“I’m good,” he says. “My Friday was decent. I just went to Target and spent $130.”

We laugh, and I remember the time Sparks and I went to Target for last minute supplies the night before our annual week-long trip north to Mackinaw City, Michigan with our group of friends - me, Sparks, Kyle, Eva, and Julie. We stuck to our budget easily enough, until we came across two Chewbacca onesies that were just our size. I walked out of the store $125 poorer.

Kyle smirks in the way he does when he knows he’s hit the mark, and runs his hand over his hair again. “I work a lot."

[ s ] So, we’re going to start out with a little “get to know you”. What’s your favorite song?

[ k.p ] You know, [he laughs, thinking about his answer] - Oh! I know what my favorite song is: “Moon River”. Mostly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, just, like, when she’s sitting out on the, like --

[ c.l ] When Audrey sings it?

[ k.p ] Yeah, when Audrey sings it. Not so much when what’s-his-face sings it —

[ c.l ] Henry Mancini?

[ k.p ] When Henry Mancini sings it — I don’t hate it. I prefer when Audrey Hepburn sings it.

[ s ] So, if your favorite song is from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is that your favorite film?

[ k.p ] No. My favorite movie is Star Wars.

[ c.l ] Which one?

[ k.p ] A New Hope.

The conversation veers into discussion about Star Wars. Kyle and Sparks both excitedly talking over one another about which prequels they hate and why they hate them before finally agreeing that they appreciate them because of their feelings of nostalgia.

[ s ] Those came out when we were kids, so, it’s like our Star Wars —
[ k.p ] I mean, I wasn’t born yet.

Kyle lifts his beer to his lips and smirks, looking once more directly into the camera. This is a look that is quintessentially Kyle, and although Sparks and I both roll our eyes, we laugh, too.
 

[ s ] Who, outside of people you personally know, have heavily inspired you in life?

[ k.p ] I’ll say Dolly Parton, because I didn’t know much about her, and then once I read her autobiography — which you can go to any second-hand store and get for $0.99, but it’s worth so much more than that, it’s the best thing I’ve ever bought — I’ve read it three times and I cried every time. She’s such a cool person. She comes from nothing, and now she just uses her platform to do good. She has a great organization that gives away books to kids, she helps families and individuals who have been stricken by poverty. Her music is great, too! I’m not a big country fan, but she’s more folk country. I think… She has so many songs about heartbreak, but she’s been married to her husband for decades (so, that’s the tea). Also, she looks fantastic! She’s always made up, and I think there’s something I really like about someone who can be totally made-up and have their big wigs on and have their face painted, but also be really deep and interesting.

[ c.l ] That does sound like you.

[ k.p ] [He smiles] Yeah! Like, she’s such a show and such a character, but her songs are heartbreaking.

[ s ] She’s like your ultimate drag mom.

[ k.p ] Yeah, no, for real.

[ s ] So, when did you get involved in drawing and art?

[ k.p ] Well, there’s a picture of me as a baby, like a couple months old, and I’m drawing something — it kind of looks like a face, but I don’t know, maybe my parents did that. I don’t remember doing that because I was, like, I don’t know, six months old — and I’m looking adorable, by the way. Never looked better. But, I think I remember knowing that I liked doing art and that I was, like, the “creative kid” when I was maybe… five? I was always, in school, we’d always have projects, as a five year old does, and we’d always be asked to draw something, and I’d always draw my thing really fast and be like, “hey, here’s my cat". All the other kids would be like “oh my god, we can’t draw cats”, because, like, whatever, and they’d have me draw it, and I was like “whoa, that’s weird, this doesn’t come naturally to everyone else”. So, I think that was the first time I realized it, but I don’t think I was able to comprehend doing it until I was a little bit older, maybe, like, third grade or fourth grade.

[ s ] It’s kind of always been something that’s been a part of your life for awhile, then?

[ k.p ] Oh, art’s always been in my life. Maybe not just drawing, necessarily, but some sort of creative outlet. Whether that’s drawing or performance or fashion or graphic design - whatever it might be, there’s always been something.

[ s ] What outside of drawing, then, would be another creative outlet that has been your go to? What does Kyle like to do when he’s not drawing?

[ k.p ] Eat. I would love to just say eating and drinking, but that’s kind of like duh. I am really focused on drawing right now, but I am working on writing a web series called “Fear the Queer”, and that has been a really good creative outlet. I haven’t really acted since high school, and I am going to be acting in this web series. From what I can tell, I think it’s going to be very funny.

[ s ] I’m excited to see that in the future! Are there any mediums you’ve wanted to work with - film, ceramics, needlepoint.

[ k.p ] I saw this embroidery pen, which is kind of cheating for embroidery, but I just thought it would be really cool to do my illustrations, but, embroidered. Maybe create some wearable art. I always call my work “queer folk art”, but I would love to venture even more into the truly folk art realm. In college, I took a stained glass class. It took a lot of time, and I didn’t even finish one of my projects, that’s not a surprise, but I think it would be cool to also transfer my ideas and what I’ve been doing into glass forms.

[ s ] Yeah, you sound like someone who is very hands-on and is into mixed media.

[ k.p ] You can say I’m handsy.

He casually reaches for his beer, but gives the camera another smirk.

[ s ] Speaking of being hands-on, you talk about yourself as a “queer artist”, was there any specific point where you started heading in the direction towards working more with the idea of activism and true self-expression?

[ k.p ] I’ve been leaning towards art activism for some time, and I think that just comes with being more comfortable with yourself. That being said, this latest presidential election, and the person in the White House right now, it really pushed me over the edge to where I’m just like, you know what? If my queerness offends you, that’s your problem. So, I think over the past year, I’ve really been developing that idea, working with my ideas of sexuality and gender. But, also, how, you know, we as people are protests. There are so many people who hate us just for being us. They might hate you for being a woman, or being gay, or the color of your skin, or your religion, or even just where you were born. I think it’s overwhelming to try to think “oh my god, how can i protest this? How can I fight back?”, and it can be really… tiring to always be fighting. So, it’s just a good reminder for people to just be yourself, just keep doing you — the protest will come from that. In the past year, I’ve really focused on not caring as much, which, ironically, has made more people notice what I’m doing.

[ s ] Are there any other activists that have inspired you or pushed you more in any sort of direction? Is there any one who has helped to influence you in this queer activism realm?

[ k.p ] Honestly, I’ve always loved Frida Kahlo. I loved her for a long time without knowing much about her personal life, i just always liked her artwork. Then, like, ten years ago, I found out she as bisexual and I just thought that was funny. Like, oh, why am I so drawn to this artist? Maybe because she also had themes of sexuality and gender in her paintings. There’s always artists that I find myself drawn to. You know me, I love Edward Gorey.

[ s ] You have a tattoo now.

[ k.p ] I have an Edward Gorey tattoo now, and I adore it. The thing about Edward Gorey is that he was very elusive about his sexuality, but what he was drawing were illustrations of people you’re not really sure — like that game, brothers or lovers? I think those would be the two biggest ones for me.

[ s ] Do you have any advice for aspiring artists out there?

[ k.p ] I view myself as just, kind of, a creative person who does creative things and finds other people to watch what they’re doing and be inspired by them. I don’t like to say “oh, I’m an artist” or “I’m an illustrator” — don’t get hung up on a word, just do it. Whatever is in your gut, go forth and do. Because if you get too hung up on a word, you’re gonna be like “I’m never going to be a musician” — just make music. It will just come to you, and if you’re not meant to do that, then you won’t be wasting time, you’ll just find your own path and do your own thing.

[ s ] You’ll naturally find your own path.

[ k.p ] You’ll naturally find your own path. I would say, just don’t get hung up on whatever you think you should be doing. Do what comes naturally.

[ s ] You mentioned something about being a creative and liking and being drawn to other creative people. Do you think having a creative community around you has been something that is beneficial to your growth as an artist?

[ k.p ] I think it’s beneficial, but I also just think it’s essential. It’s just necessary. I don’t even do it on purpose, I don’t think anyone seeks out certain types of people. I think, like I said, you just kind of do your own thing and they’ll be drawn to you, they’ll be drawn to your personality. But, I think, I like being surrounded by other creative people because it helps me grow. Sparks, you making music or doing graphic design — that’s not my thing, but it’s inspiring to me that you can sit down and just make it. Or, Cassandra, you with writing. I like people who can push me.

The interview ends of its own accord, as we spend another ten minutes talking about farts, food and Amy Winehouse. Kyle shoves an entire Dorito in his mouth and giggles before looking at the time and realizing that he needs to get ready for his date. Laughing at one another, we say our goodbyes, and, speaking for myself, say a silent prayer of gratitude for knowing such wonderful people.

Follow Kyle Parker on Instagram: @kyleparkr

CLICK THROUGH KYLE'S ARTWORK HERE