Terry Parmalee

Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, April 29, 2022

Like a group of more-celebrated (and mostly male) local painters who were roughly her contemporaries, Terry Parmalee has an affinity for clean, bright colors. She’s not known, however, for pouring, staining or spattering pigment. The pictures in “Wave Songs: Terry Parmalee’s Works of the Eighties” at Pazo Fine Art feature shapes that are fluid and curving, yet always hard-edged. The artist, a longtime Washingtonian who is 91, has been most active as a printmaker, and brought that sensibility to these paintings, most of which date from 1981.


After a decade overseas that included printmaking studies in Japan, Parmalee settled in the Washington area in the mid-1960s. She earned a master’s in painting at American University and embarked on a teaching career. Some of her prints are representational, but these paintings are abstract. Their tightly arrayed ripples and ovals can be read as forms from nature, but rarely as specific objects.


The paintings began as drawings, and the penciled boundaries are clearly visible. Occasionally, Parmalee leaves an outlined area unfilled with color, which is just one of the ways she employs white space to add a sense of drama. Her hues can be as sweet and simple as titles such as “Boysenberry Sherbet” suggest, but there’s a sophisticated sense of tension in the way the colors overlap, juxtapose or entirely disappear.



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