Northwest artist couples magical island compounds for the Painted in the Desert film
Do we have the best job ever? MK Barr & Mellissae Lucia ventured onto a lush Northwest Island last week to film creative couples Dick Marquis + Johanna Nitzke Marquis and Charlie + Connie Parriott for MK’s Painted in the Desert Documentary movie. The film follows the growth of artist Mellissae Lucia after a great loss, venturing beyond her upbringing in Washington state to find freedom and joy in New Mexico. Part of the film explores the lives of working, successful artists that Mellissae grew up surrounded by. All of the interviewees are good friends of her father, the glass artist Dick Weiss. These conversations are a peek inside the worlds of couples who have dedicated their lives to exploring their imaginative impulses. What a treat.
The first couple interviewed that day was Dick Marquis and Johanna Nitzke Marquis. Dick is a master glass blower trained in Murano, Italy who combines irreverent, quirky objects with his fine-art glass pieces. He was part of the vanguard movement of glass artists who expanded the craft beyond factory walls. Before the early 1960’s glass artisans worked production jobs within large-scale factory settings where the focus was on consistency and functionality. When some of the US pioneers in the field designed glass blowing equipment that could be used in individual studios and schools, they opened up the medium to free experimentation with this fascinating and luminous material. Dick was one of these early devotees to glass, merging the creative fluidity of the US with the classical skills he acquired in Italy.
Johanna is a naturalist, painter and creator who makes beautiful little environments in vintage boxes, books and cases with an eclectic mix of precious materials. Her 3-D still lives are studies in the beauty and presence of the natural world. Her greatest joy is spending the day in the woods painting the flora and fauna and enjoying her dog’s company. That day as MK and Mellissae toured their enchanting compound, they walked into a world of two people who are living a life they love.
The second stop that day was at Connie and Charlie Parriott’s seaside retreat. Charlie’s work has evolved over the years from early slumped glass platters to cast glass heads blown in Czechoslovakia. His work is a combination of elegant juxtapositions, weaving flower motifs with a faceless militaristic busts. Connie has focused on painting as her main medium, dipping into glass at times.
Arriving at the Parriott’s the climate changed dramatically from the sheltered woodlands of the Marquis’s domain to the open, windswept vistas of the bay. With that expansiveness came howling winds that created the feeling of being holed up in a storm. The front of the property has two antique barns, weathered to a grey perfection. They also have an amoebic shaped outdoor hot tub, magical pathways snaking through fields of wild roses and a sauna being completed. This is a rustic and soulful Northwest retreat, offering shelter and wildness.
Connie and Charlie have been one of Mellissae’s favorite couples since she was a child. For a time they lived at the “telephone building” in Seattle where many other artists had studios, included Paul Marioni who was previously interviewed for the Painted in the Desert film. All of the artists homes were some of the funkiest, coolest, most fascinating places Mellissae remembers as a child. She would walk into big, open studios filled with a kaleidoscope of artwork and creations, and there was always a palpable feeling of passion and individuality to these lives. Friends would drop in, discussing their latest projects, politics, or how to sustain themselves in these unorthodox careers. They had found a way to bypass the tedium and constrictions of maturing, choosing to continue the playful exploration of innocent curiosity. It wasn’t always an easy life, but this is the vision Mellissae has always carried for herself, the path she too has chosen.