I am a Vermont Artist: Jericho Parms
Jericho Parms is an old pro at living “between extremes”—between urban and rural, Black and white, art and life. In “On Touching Ground,” the first essay in her 2016 collection, Lost Wax, an exhibit of Degas’ horse sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a ticket to memory, family, and identity, to a young Jericho visiting her grandfather’s Arizona ranch all the way from New York City. Jericho uses language and writing to make connections that build, that “repair our understanding of experience,” and show us truths like how a wild mustang, a sculptor, and a little girl are all teachers of resilience and grace.
Born and raised in New York, life has seen Jericho in the Southwest, Central America, and Europe. Since moving to central Vermont in 2012, Jericho—now of Middlesex—has dedicated herself to forging meaningful connections for the arts community here, working as faculty and as Director of Alumnx Affairs & Diversity Initiatives at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Jericho shared her thoughts on being a Vermont artist.
How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?
I moved to Vermont from New York several years ago, and while I feel fully grounded in the landscape and my community here, I know a part of me will always belong to the city. There is space and silence in Vermont that allows me room to play and experiment in ways I never used to, but that same silence can at times feel too quiet. I still often crave the anonymity of New York, the opportunity to observe small moments set against the backdrop of chaos and noise. Interrogating that tension—between urban and rural life, similar to my growing up between black and white experiences, witnessing both beauty and destruction, navigating pleasure and sadness—is often where my process begins. As a writer, I don’t ever want to feel too comfortable. The push and pull sustains me, inspires me to look closer, to question, to wonder.
What is something about your art that has changed over time?
I’ve become increasingly aware of the responsibility inherent to creating art, particularly art that relies on language and its influence. As writers we often talk about the “tools” of craft because we are indeed building something, attempting to adjust or repair our understanding of experience. There is profound power in that. When I first began writing, I was obsessed with narrative as a primary means of telling stories. As my work has grown more rooted in the tradition of the essay, I am more concerned with attempting to make meaning from those experiences as much through lyricism and imagery as with research and reflection.
What is your vision for the next several years?
To continue using language to explore individual experiences that reveal the ways we are, in fact, bound by a shared human experience. And to acknowledge the range of that human experience—all the injustices and pain it contains and, too, all the brilliance, all the joy.
Read this 2018 interview with Jericho in The Normal School.
Read Jericho’s essay “On Weaving” in Burlington’s Mud Season Review.
Jericho Parms is the author of Lost Wax (University of Georgia Press). Her essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, The Normal School, Hotel Amerika, American Literary Review, Brevity and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, noted in Best American Essays, and anthologized in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, and Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays By Women. She teaches in the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist.