Activist and artist Lindsay Parker, 17, sees the world through the window of space

Hail to the Rad Kids: Painting murals for Hope elephants – ‘they need something to look at’

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:00am

    The first time I met Lindsay at Out! As I Want To Be, I noticed her cool vest (cut-off sleeved denim with pinned-on slogans like ‘F*** Homophobia’ and and ‘Eat The Rich’). Her friend, David Munson had handmade the cloth slogans. I asked if I could take a photo of it. Really, it’s kind of a personal question to ask ‘Can I take a picture of your clothes,’ but I took a chance because I genuinely dug her style.  Just the way she obliged with a giggle and a smile revealed how approachable she was. I immediately made a mental note: Rad Kid.

    Lindsay’s got a lot going on in her world. In addition to school, Lindsay works two jobs (one is part-time at Rock City Café and she’s currently the only teen board member of Out! As I Want To Be, an organization in Rockland for GLBTQ young people ages 14-22.) She initially joined the organization because she supported its cause and she had a lot of friends there. It’s also an environment that encourages alternative self-expression.

    “When a lot of my friends got older and left [Out!], it left an open leadership position and I kind of just jumped in,” she said. ”I help make important decisions, which can be kind of tough.”

    In her downtime, she dabbles in various art forms. She recently made a mural for Hope Elephants with her own spin on it.

    “I work with this woman, Alexis Iammarino. She a community artist, and does these Saturday workshops at the Rec for people who just want to go and do art,” said Lindsay. “I’ve been working with her for a year now. She was working with Hope Elephants to make these big 4 x 8 murals with middle school kids that will be put on the walls of the elephants’ barn and one of the panels was left over. So, she gave me one.”

    To see more about this mural project from Hope Elephants, click here.

    With the leftover panel, Lindsay could have painted anything she wanted, but she got to thinking about the elephants.

    “They need something to look at,” she said. “See, they imagine things like humans imagine things and Alexis was telling me they like to make shapes with their trunks. Like, they’ll see a shape and think ‘Oh I can mimic that’ and then make that same shape with their trunk.

    “So, with some help from Alexis and two of my friends, I painted an elephant on my panel. He’s got these yellow rings around him to signify space age. Kinda alien. I’ve been really into space lately, like astronauts and learning about how everything started. Super novas and all that fun stuff. So, I really wanted to incorporate the space elephant with the theme of poaching. On on side of the mural, I have an astronaut with a giant space gun I made up. The other side is the elephant. When I did this, I didn’t necessarily have meaning behind it. The idea of poaching ivory was up for grabs, because no one had touched on it [for the mural]. The idea of people killing elephants for ivory is ridiculous. I don’t know. I just wanted to put an elephant in space.”

    She giggles. I love her giggle because it’s not high-pitched, it’s sort of low and chortling.

    The finished mural will now go up in the Hope Elephants’ barn, along with all of the local middle school students’ panels.

    Lindsay likes to draw and paint, but she really loves collages. Much like the random patchwork of provocative slogans on her vest, she really likes “cutting up pieces of paper and putting them together in pretty pictures.”

    By now, getting a sense of Lindsay, when she says “pretty pictures,” that could mean something entirely subjective. Others may not find a medical museum photo of a deformed infant’s oversized skull and skeleton so pretty, but she found that image on the Internet one day and became fascinated by it enough to paint it.

    “Yes, it’s morbid, but I thought it was a really neat photo, so I painted it one day,” she said.

    As we talk, she pulls out one of the state-issued iPads and begins rapidly touching areas of the screen to multitask, pulling up that original image to email to me, as she’s showing me what else she’s working on. When asked if she thinks Maine made the right decision giving iPads to kids instead of laptops, she sort of laugh-snorts.

    “They’re all breaking,” she said. “Kids are pushing the buttons too hard.”

    Back to the painting/collage of the medically deformed baby.

    “I love this collage because I haven’t looked at it enough to hate it yet,” she said. “It was originally an acrylic painting underneath and then I took white construction paper and made the ribs with that. Then, I took different pictures from Time Magazine that involved space. A good chunk of it was Mars and thermal pictures, so that’s where the grainy red part of it comes from. Then, I found pictures of the universe with little circles of other stars.

    “When I look at the stars, I know I’m looking back in time and it always blows my mind.”

    In her free time, she curls up on the couch and scrolls on the Internet or doodles with pen and pencil. She doesn’t use the digital tools like Photoshop on her iPad very much. She just wants to let her imagination roam free on white, open canvas. A senior this year, she plans to graduate and then afterward... she’s not sure.

    “I don’t know what I want to do,” she said. “Ideally, Boston would be cool. Maybe go to Mass Art or even take a couple of classes. I don’t know if I want to go for four years of college. It’s expensive. Maybe an internship or apprenticeship somewhere, just kinda work my way through.”

    “Just get out of a small town?”  I prompt. “You just want to live your life right?”

    “I do!” she said. “My goal in life is just to be happy. And to make a difference and not kind of sit on my butt all the time in Rockland.”

    There’s that chortle again. Yeah, like I can believe she ever has time to sit on her butt all day.

    Hail To The Rad Kids is a regular feature highlighting teens in the Midcoast with artistic, musical, community-minded or entrepreneurial talent. If you know of a teen who fits this profile please contact us.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at