MIAMI - When I first met Addonis Parker four years ago, I was covering a fundraiser for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Parker was selling his art for the charity.
The self-taught artist works with Miami-Dade County in its Maintenance, Repair and Restoration program, where he has restored public art projects.
Since we met, he has also been selected by private groups to beautify everything from church altars to murals and mosaics. His larger-than-life original paintings can be seen on the sides of housing projects, walls of neighborhood parks and inside municipal buildings.
Parker is an artist, a tradesman and a craftsman. At 6 feet 7 inches tall, he works with the strength of a construction worker (a past profession) and the dexterity and subtlety of a fine painter.
"I have more freedom here," Parker said. "Because most people, they go to a job site and they tell you what they want, what they expect of you. I always told my mom, I said, 'Mom, when I grow up, I want to be able to control who I am, and to be able to use all my talents.'"
As part of his work as a vendor with Miami-Dade County, he restored Purvis Young's mural in Overtown in 2012.
"As an artist, Addonis has helped us restore various artworks with the same attention, respect and eye that the original artist intended," said Jessica Berthin, with Miami-Dade's Department of Cultural Affairs.
When we reconnected this week, Parker showed me his studio at State Road 7 and 61st Street, where some of the magic happens. Unfortunately, magic doesn't always escape reality, as thieves had recently stolen his air conditioning unit. And it wasn't the first time.
Still, even without air conditioning, having space to work is imperative.
"Very important, because this is -- this area here is when I commune with God," Parker said. "I don't need any music, I don't need anything. No interaction with people."
Parker's portraits seem to glow. Dutch masters, like Vermeer, were known for the quality of light in their work. But Parker doesn't use oil paints like the old masters; he uses house paint. Glidden is his brand of choice these days.
Parker is also a father of five and said his family is a constant inspiration.
"A lot of my family members are in my work. I incorporate it. I use my mom's eyes," Parker said.
He isn't afraid to share his family, his faith in God or himself.
"I think to be an artist, you're supposed to touch the community and touch people and share. That's what it's about," said Parker. "It's about sharing and giving."
To see more of Parker's work, visit his website.
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