Olivia Parker (American, born 1941)

Ephemera Portfolio: Cinquefoil, 1977

Ephemera Portfolio: Cinquefoil, 1977

Silver chloride print 16 1/4 in. x 12 1/2 in. x 1 5/8 in. (41.28 cm x 31.75 cm x 4.13 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of Bernice Garson Slater


  • Made famous by Edward Weston and his circle, still-life photography has adherents among a more recent generation. Olivia Parker has spent forty years arranging the unique forms and textures of the natural world and addressing them through the camera lens. The transformative power of light in revealing the rich detail of surface is the ultimate subject of her first portfolio. Cinquefoil, one of ten images therein, presents a mysterious tangle whose identity, a species of basket starfish (Ophiurida), is elusive and dramatic and tantalizing in its portrayal. Parker, who studied art history and was a painter, turned to photography for its descriptive possibilities, saying, “Photography, even though some people refer to it as a mechanical process, forces you to reach out to the world in front of you.”1 The artist finds that despite the conscious decisions she makes in her work, the end results are full of surprises and unanticipated contrasts. Her black-and-white work in particular reveals the sumptuous and unexpected qualities of objects, but she was also one of the earliest to selectively montage color negatives with black-and-white. By the 1990s, Parker’s compositions had become increasingly complex in their layering of images and source materials, resulting in stirring, yet open-ended intellectual and emotive investigations.

    1. John Paul Caponigro, interview with Olivia Parker, View Camera (August 1997).

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