Catherine Parker (1926-2012), Messiaen V, 2010; gouache and charcoal on paper, 26 x 32 inches; Purchased with funds from John and Carol Kociela, 2011
Since the late 1990s, Catherine Parker painted images that were inspired by or in “response to” music by particular composers. Having been a cellist herself, as well as a painter, informs her special vision. Parker often responded to the music of Olivier Messiaen, a 20th-century French composer known for his spirituality, love of nature, and rare synesthetic perceptions in which he would simultaneously hear musical chords as specific colors. Burchfield Scholar Nancy Weekly has researched Charles Burchfield’s synesthetic sensitivities and believes that since synesthesia can be a hereditary gift, it is possible that his daughter, Catherine, may have had an exceptional perception of sound within a visual dimension. Her appreciation of Messiaen’s music may have a greater depth and complexity that we can imagine.