On view at PEM from July 13 through November 11, 2019
Exhibition Fact Sheet
SALEM, MA — For more than 40 years, Olivia Parker (b. 1941) has used photography to explore the relationships between vision, knowledge, and the natural world. From deceptively simple still-lifes that transform the commonplace to her most recent work exploring memory loss, Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker features more than 100 intricately composed photographs that reflect the artist’s wide creative range and unflagging curiosity. On view at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) from July 13 through November 11, 2019, this is the first retrospective exhibition to present a comprehensive examination of Parker’s extensive career.
Celebrated photographer, Olivia Parker, has had more than 100 one-person exhibitions around the world. Her work is represented in major collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York.
Parker creates still-lifes and dreamlike assemblages that often incorporate a rich variety of found objects, including books, shells, dolls, animal skeletons, maps, nautical charts and bits of metal.
Trained as a painter, Parker was drawn to photography for its ability to create a controlled dialogue between nature and abstraction, permanence and ephemerality, and its ability to use light to sculpt form and define space.
Parker’s decision to transition from painting to photography in the 1970s coincided with the development of a robust and rapidly expanding photography community in the Boston area.
Parker maintains an abiding interest in still-lifes, a genre she continues to explore in myriad ways.
Primarily a self-taught photographer, Parker explored a wide range of photographic process over the course of her career, from large-format to Polaroid and digital.
Parker often arranges her compositions on the floor of her Manchester, MA studio and photographs them from above so that she can generate complex rhythms of volume and flatness, and to vary the distribution of weight and density across an image.
Parker’s alluring and poetic images creates a sense of exploration and discovery for the viewers as they decipher how the familiar has been made strange.
The exhibition closes with Parker’s most recent series of photographs detailing the devastating impact Alzheimer’s disease had on her husband, John. With empathy, honesty, and creativity, Parker steps inside her husband’s mind, to portray his increasingly chaotic perceptual and emotional world.
High-resolution publicity images and captions available for download at: goo.gl/HS8aDN
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Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker is a 224-page fully illustrated book and the definitive study of Parker’s career. Edited by exhibition curator Sarah Kennel, the Byrne Family Curator of Photography at the Peabody Essex Museum, the publication includes poet and essayist Rachel Hadas’ reflections on art’s ability to offer solace amidst grief. More than 100 beautifully illustrated works, many of which are published here for the first time, are accompanied by Parker’s lyrical reflections on her art and process. Available at the pemshop.com
Generous support for this exhibition is provided by Susan and Appy Chandler, Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation.
Olivia Parker, Child, 1980. Dye diffusion print. 8 x 10 in.
ABOUT THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM
Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only such example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit pem.org
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