Who is Ryan Parks?
I am an artist and musician from College Park, GA. I've been drawing since I can remember. A few years back, my grandmother gave me a photo album with all my childhood drawings in it. Big shout out to Carol Parks. I run a tape label here in Atlanta called Harsh Riddims. Through HR, I try to put a spotlight on other young black electronic and experimental artists coming out of the city. I'm also a skater. I've been skating for over twenty years now.
What type of environment in College Park did you grow up around that shaped you to be who you are today?
I love College Park. When it's time for me to settle down and retire, I'm definitely going back home. As far as growing up there, I lived there with my mom, grandmother, my brother and my sister. My grandmother has a big collection of photo albums that I was really into as a kid. There were family photos, photos of her friends, photos from parties. Her collection is really cool. I still will borrow an album from her, draw some of the photos and then make them into my construction paper collages. While I lived in College Park, I went to school on the other side of town, in Sandy Springs. So I didn't know a lot of kids in my area to hang out with. I think this made me comfortable being by myself and finding ways to occupy my time and imagination. That's really where art, music, and skating came into play, because I could pursue those things on my own.
What was your first love? Art or Music?
That's hard to say! Probably art, because all I needed was a pencil and paper. But I was really into music as a kid. Apparently I was big on Jodeci. My mom always tells me about how I would try to sing along to them from the car seat. I loved Bone Thugs -n- Harmony too, so shout out to them.
How did the name Harsh Riddims come about?
I remember being on a bus from New York back to Atlanta, staring out of the window, and the name just came to me. And it just never left. I really like those two words in tandem. It's also a fun name to design around. I feel like I never run out of ideas that play off of it.
What inspires your art?
A big one for me is Jacob Lawrence. It's his use of colors, the subject matter, how he intertwined history and everyday black life. I took a lot of inspiration from him. I'm also a fan of Henry Taylor, Emory Douglas, Sam Doyle, Bob Thompson, David Hammons, and so many other artists.
I'm constantly staring at board graphics and advertising from skate companies. That's been a big influence on me since I was a kid. I really like the recent board series Cafe did with Tishk Barzanji and their work with Gaurab Thakali. I also can't forget about Ed Templeton and Toy Machine. The original name for the tape label was Harsh Riddims Blood Sucking Cassette Company.
How do you see your art impacting today's society?
Hopefully my art encourages people to not be afraid of doing their own thing and to be creative with whatever resources they have available to them. I'm basically just using construction paper, a glue stick, an exacto knife and a 10 year old scanner.
What's next? What do you want the world to know about Ryan Parks?
As soon as we wrap this project for Rokit up, I'm going to jump back into music. I'm finishing an album for my solo project, Fit of Body. That'll be out on a label called 2MR later this year. I'm releasing a tape for my friend Toni on HR. His album is called True Beauty and should be out in late March. I also want to release some books of my art as well as other artists. I want to take HR in that direction for a little bit and focus on visual art as well as music. So maybe we'll release cassettes in tandem with the books. We'll see!