by BJ Panda Bear

Parker Day has built an illustrious career taking portraits of artists, nightlife figures, and all the oddities that come with the underground digital world. Known for her refusal of photoshop, her images depict a rich quality of textures and colors presenting the fantastical subject in their purest form with or without their wardrobe. In her newest endeavor, Parker has taken to the question “What does it mean to possess a body? Do you identify with ‘your’ body? Regardless ofwhat body we possess, do we share common human experiences, as well as feelings of potentiality and limitation?” Taking cues from Renaissance paintings, her diverse cast will be presented in her first solo show at Superchief Gallery, We caught up with the photographer to get some insight on the project.

How did this project concept come along? With the positioning similar to many Renaissance leisure poses was there a prompt when it came to how you placed your subjects?

Yes! Thank you for seeing that. It sounds so cliche in a snooty way but I went to the Louvre and was sooo inspired. Honestly, it was such a joy wandering around there all day by myself until my legs turned to jelly (my LA ass doesn't normally walk anywhere and there are a lot of stairs in the Louvre ok?!). So I spent a lot of time with La Grande Odalisque by Ingres, which has been paid homage to many times over. I liked the idea of joining in that art historical narrative and using it as the spring board for the style of my series. I often like to incorporate something familiar--even trite--in my work because I think the unknown is best served in the trappings of the familiar. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,  La Grande Odalisque , (1814) Oil on canvas, 36" x 63" (91 x 162 cm), (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, (1814) Oil on canvas, 36" x 63" (91 x 162 cm), (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

You are a strong preveyer of not using Photoshop how were you able to manipulate having the floating head and all the other photo manipulations?

Oh you mean my severed head in my selfie portrait, "I Studied the Blade"? Well, unfortunately for me it was not floating but very much had gravity working on it as I held it aloft in one hand, my trusty battle axe in the other. The brilliant SFX MUA Sheila Mia Seifi did my life cast and sculpted my head with silicone. It'll be on view at the opening as part of my photo set installation with live models wearing prosthetics and body paint by Sheila and another makeup artist collaborator, Ally McGillicuddy. That and all the other photos in the series bear no marks of Photoshop--only good old fashioned practical Hollywood magic!

What is the process of casting, a lot of these portraits are of musicians and artists, were they already part of your community that you pulled from?

A bunch of folks I had shot with previously or were introduced to me through mutual friends so I knew who wouldn't be skeeved out if I asked them to pose nude with, like, molasses on their dick (See: The Abhora in "Shame") And then a bunch of people I just cold DM'ed and delicately asked if they'd be interested in shooting. I almost always had the concept in mind when approaching them so I felt a little sheepish being like, "hey (person I've never met), I'd love to do a shoot with you with a big inflatable sign reading "JUICY" over your naked body." Most women were chill but I couldn't get a straight man to drop trou for me to save my life! I think Rashied is the only one in the bunch but he's basically a nudist without a colony.

Is the staging more complicated or the make up on the talent, what is your process in figuring out the color combinations?

There was a lot of pre-planning for this whole series and I mostly like to picture things in my head, moves things around mentally, then see if it all works in 3D reality and make adjustments from there. There were a lot of wild card elements throughout the series like I wanted a fried egg on my model's body but I've been vegan for 6 years so I was like, "wait, do I even know how to cook an egg sunny side up?" I was praying the yolk wouldn't run down her thigh. Though that would've been cute too come to think of it! I like a certain amount of planning but then when I'm in the moment, I need to be open to how things develop and let the shoot unfold of its own accord.

Do you feel that this particular body of work is more abstract or is this your portrayal of sensuality and sexuality? I feel you have tapped into nudity before but to not in an erotic subtext. I see a lot of similarities to Steven Arnold's work in the 70s which had that sense of drama, kitsch and highly ornate makeup and background. 

Wow I hadn't seen Steven Arnold's work before! Thanks for introducing me. Pierre et Gilles and David LaChappelle were my idols when I was younger so I think Possession draws on their work as well as James Bidgood. They all use theatricality and sexuality brilliantly. 

For Possession, I first asked myself "what does it mean to possess a body?" We perceive the world through our senses so I wanted to tap into that as I dove into exploring different aspects of being incarnate, like "Filth," "Shame," and "Heat." Many of the works might as well be scratch n sniffs! And the fur backgrounds, especially coupled with the film grain, have a tactile quality. But the photos' sensuality is in an aggressive, even clinical way (albeit an unhygienic clinic...) In the future I want to look at sensuality more, but from another angle. I'm always interested in conveying individuals' personal power and there's so much primal power in sex. 


Possession by Parker Day runs from January 5th - January 31st, 2019 at Superchief Gallery LA, 739 Kohler St, Los Angeles, CA 90021