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It always amazes me how some of the most transcendent artistic creations have surged from profound pain. So it is with Olivia Parker’s Vanishing in Plain Sight, her impressionistic photographic exploration of the furtive forces that slowly overtook her husband John as he succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease. A material departure from her unique still-life photography, this “work in progress” has driven Parker’s experimental style into a shimmering intimate sphere, on view at Robert Klein Gallery’s Newbury Street location from May 4th – June 24th, 2017.
Parker’s potent narrative begins with photographs of the small scraps and stacks of scribbled notes that John used early on to help him recall things like the names of close friends. Flooded with undulating and prismatic light, the notes are awash in wonky, disorienting waves and shadows like memories escaping reach. Differing opacities create depth of field, as if to hint at the dimensionality of the past. John’s sharply penned reminders are desperate sonnets to his now swirling, evasive history.
Parker’s narrative evolves into triptychs and sequenced grids that often originate with recognizable objects, only to shape-shift into mysterious forms. With blurred objects suggesting the devolving mind’s erratic and unreliable impressions, Parker’s dark sequence of their morphing family dog and her revealingly de-saturated self-portraits are eerie, lyrical and loving forays into John’s state of mind.
As John’s disease progresses, Parker follows with more ethereal and abstract photographs pondering his dark and fiery hallucinatory states. Her expressive use fractured light suggests the brain’s neural disconnections while smoky forms and sinewy threads lend the impression of a dwindling body and soul, as in the softly minimalist “Changes”. Although shot primarily in color, Parker’s prevalent use of black, white and red effectively introduces graphic contrast to an uncertain, intangible subject. Blood red beacons of life, the black, inaccessible stores of his knowledge (with peripheral visual hallucinations represented by ink strokes of beloved Asian art) and scattered, electric white nerve impulses offer a powerful paradox in the boldly luminous “Nattering Things.”
Parker’s imaginings of John’s ultimate departure are sad, sweet visual poetry. “City” is an especially beautiful analogy, wherein the skeletal structures of once familiar city buildings parallel Parker’s wondering view of her husband’s eroding brain “stripped back to its building elements.” “What? Where?” contemplates the very end of consciousness with fluid elegance. In visually processing her husband’s demise, Parker’s signature inventiveness is infused with poignancy. Gracefully, generously she leads us to life’s vanishing point.
For more information about this exhibit, go to: https://www.robertkleingallery.com/
Feature Image: “Remnant, 2016” (detail) from the series Vanishing in Plain Sight by Olivia Parker (courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery, Boston).