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William E. Parker

William E. Parker

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January 28, 2015
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January 28, 2015
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September 10, 2009
It is with tremendous sadness that I learned of Bill’s death. While I’m happy to think that his passing may have shortened a period in which he (and your family) may have suffered in many ways as his illness progressed, it is still a tremendous loss for all of us.

I first met Bill in 1978 when I was a first-year graduate student at RISD. I didn’t really know anything about him, and wandered one evening into a critique he was leading for the second-year grad students in Photography. They were looking at some Polaroids done by one of the students; they were difficult images for most to appreciate, since they were generated by the student’s interest in Zen. Apparently not many of the others were aware of the precepts of Zen, since they were giving the student something of a hard time. I think that Bill was more or less on the side of the group, but that didn’t stop me from offering (unasked) my own thoughts about why the images were appropriate and valuable, given the viewpoint of the author.

There was a hush as I started talking, and later I realized it was because few people ever felt comfortable openly disagreeing with Bill’s viewpoint. After I left, I later heard that Bill asked someone in the group, “Who was that??” and this was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, as they say.

When I first attended the Photo-iconography course he taught at RISD, I remember that he would typically begin a lecture by telling us what he was going to cover. But an hour or so later, I would frequently wonder if he had actually gotten from point a to point b and c, or if we were at that time into the realm of points x,y and z. One time he told a story that involved his waking up from a dream to find his cats staring at him in bed making a noise that he proceeded to imitate; I knew then that the man was either brilliant, crazy, or more likely a bit of each. Either way, he would teach his heart out (having already worked all day at UConn), and would then go out afterwards to eat with a bunch of us and continue to talk. Endless energy, endless enthusiasm, endless fascination with the world around him – endlessly inspiring qualities.

I can’t think of anyone from whom I have learned more, nor anyone who has challenged my thinking and stimulated more self-reflection and growth as an artist. After RISD I was fortunate enough to become Bill’s colleague at the University of Connecticut, where we would often have lunch, smoke a Salem or two, and talk about art. I will always treasure not only his profound knowledge, but his generous willingness to share it and his ability to convey his thoughts with such joy, such animation, such splendid use of language and imagery.

As well, I will also cherish his creativity, which was equally stimulating.

My thoughts and sympathies and condolences are with you and your family.
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