Connected \\ July 31, 2019
Libby Parker studio visit
One of the many ways that we share content and ideas at PEM is by making books. We create publications that encourage close looking at art, further original scholarship and research, and embrace a multiplicity of voices. We consider the finished book’s “look and feel” and interrogate choices of paper, typeface, color and binding style to consider what relates best to each project. We commission authors and edit the content with the goal of telling a compelling story that appeals to scholars and general readers alike. As the leader of our publishing program, I am happy to remind my colleagues that a museum exhibition will exist for a finite period of time while the publication will serve as a lasting record that can be seen by people all over the world, including those that may not have the opportunity to experience the art in real time.
The cover of Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker, designed by Margaret Bauer
Recently I was privileged to work with photographer Olivia Parker to produce the book that accompanies her retrospective at PEM: Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker. Libby (as her friends call her) has spent a lifetime making pictures. And unlike some artists who find a particular style or medium that they iterate over time, she is endlessly curious, trying new techniques and finding fresh sources of inspiration. One of my favorites of her photos is a large color polaroid of a kohlrabi. “I ate it afterwards,” she told me with a sly grin. Her work abounds with her subtle wit, and like many successful artists, she has retained a child’s unique sense of the world as a place of possibility and wonder.
Olivia Parker, Circles of Influence 1985, dye diffusion print, 20 ½ × 24 in. (52.1 × 61 cm) © Olivia Parker
Olivia Parker, Interior with Pears, 1979. Gelatin silver print. © Olivia Parker
© 2019 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert
For me, going to visit Libby is like getting an oxygen boost to the brain. After each visit I leave feeling inspired, amused and preoccupied with a fresh sense of possibility. (Full disclosure, this project inspired me to pick up an actual camera again after years of iPhone photos.)