Ephemera Portfolio: Cinquefoil, 1977.
Olivia Parker (American, born 1941)
Silver chloride print, 6 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Bernice Garson Slater, 1991.22.2.

Inspired by Edward Weston and his followers, Olivia Parker has spent 40 years arranging the unique forms and textures of the natural world and addressing them through the camera lens. Her first portfolio of 10 images focused on the transformative power of light to reveal the rich detail of different surfaces. Cinquefoil was part of this group, presenting a basket starfish (Ophiurida) as a mysterious, dramatic, and tantalizing tangle.

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 images. 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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