Purion Parker
Purion Parker with some of his portraits | Courtesy of Art Sanctuary

When Louisville artist Purion Parker sits down to create a portrait, he possesses an innate ability — some might call it magic — to hone in on a person’s energy, transferring it from aura to canvas. Parker will display some of his current portraits in a new exhibition opening Friday, July 5, at Art Sanctuary.

Parker, who is a member of the local art collective known as the Glass Eye Ensemble, is a self-taught artist who found himself drawn to the medium of portraiture at an early age. In his artist’s statement, he says the medium allows him to capture the likeness of his sitter.

“My subjects are based on people I am surrounded by — like my family and friends and society figures — to help me connect more and reflect my voice with their lively energy,” he explains.

"The Greatest" by Purion Parker
“The Greatest” by Purion Parker

Parker tells Insider there are about 15 pieces in the exhibit, and they’re a mix of family and acquaintances as well as powerful African-American influencers from the art community.

In the past, he’s also drawn portraits of his heroes, like Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama.

Asked whether he prefers to create his portraits from a live sitting or a photograph, he says he would rather have the model sit right in front of him, as their mere presence “gives you more than a photo.”

The detail of the human body has its challenges, and for Parker, he says the hands are most challenging to translate onto canvas.

“To me, it’s the hands because you can sometimes get away with showing little effort, but eventually it stands out to me like an eyesore,” he explains.

Expect to see more from Parker in the coming months, as the Glass Eye Ensemble currently are working on projects they hope to launch soon. In the meantime, “Works by Parker Purion” opens on Friday, July 5, with a free reception at Art Sanctuary from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit continues through July 28.

Art Sanctuary is located at 1433 S. Shelby St.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."