This article originally ran in the printed edition of WUSSY vol.04.
You can still order your copy here.
Parker Day, an LA photographer of fantastical means, was blessed from a young age with quite the imagination. Scanning the aisles of her father’s comic book shop, the seedlings of her future talent for visualizing, styling and actualizing otherworldly imagery were taking root. “My work concerns the malleability of identity and the yearning to expand,” Parker explains. “I think everyone at one time or another questions who they are and feels the angst of unrealized potential selves. People who visibly exist beyond the status quo show the potential we all have to break away from who we think we ought to be.”
Wrapped in a keen combination of saturated, saccharine and surreal, Parker Day’s portraits flesh-out kid-powered, femmetastic and oft androg elements that ultimately elevate her work to high queer art. Her own personal imprint of candy-coated, front-flash, textural fundamentals is met with a temperament of wildness, weirdness and wonderment. This is aided by the fact that her technique dreams in Technicolor, a practice Parker pulls off retro-realistically and with perfect ease. Her massive series ICONS is proof of this.
“I need the free freaks of the world.”
Though the artist follows her own bliss without fitting into any particular box, Parker Day’s work is quintessential to the dialogue of queer aesthetic and art. Perhaps it’s the kindredship that stems from the visibility of non-binary fashionistas, an appreciation of genderqueer performance or the proud pedestal that hyper femme-inity sits upon in Parker’s portraits. Her own personal style of vintage and kitsch carries over into her work, the proud playful femininity admired and respected by the queer community. Queerness, whether powered by the models or in commentary, is one of many moving potent parts in Parker’s galaxy of contained chaos. Noting influences like Pierre et Gilles, Francis Bacon, John Waters, Velvet Underground and David LaChapelle, Parker Day is one of the best modern day queer portrait photographers without ever having planned it.
“Well, first off, I am, for all intents and purposes, a cis woman in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. Nothing spicy here!”, Parker laughs. “In my portraits, there's a vast variety of beautiful ways to show femme identity. It can be very powerful to play with the tropes and symbols of femme identity. Masculine identity doesn't seem to have as many visual touchstones, it's a bit more limited. I like toying with cultural archetypes and using visual symbols. There's much more to pick and choose from on the femme side.”
Having photographed a 100 well-known artists and influencers for her ICONS series in a short period of time, Parker Day’s models are both malleable and bold. Creative types in their own regards like Molly Soda, Dorian Electra, Stella Rose, Lexi Lafortune, Cheeky Ma, and Ernie Omega make appearances. Another series, Possession, mirrors classical scenery with lounging nudes that flirt not with just persona and paired symbolism but the juxtaposition of our wealth in our impermanent existence. Including such babes like artiste extraordinaire Seth Bogart (who we featured in Vol. 5), Possession’s idiosyncratic aesthetic and philosophical perspective explores the body as our only truly owned prize.
Undoubtedly, Parker’s impressive imagery centers around the characters she conjures. The time-investment in developing narratives propels Parker to search high and low for the kookiest items to puzzle-piece into a seamless idealized style. “You can't just wait for the muses to speak to you. I take lots of notes, save images of interesting people I find on Instagram, and look for clothes and props,” Parker says of her creative process. “I let it all sort of click together by trusting my instincts. I like my models to have a dark fire in the eyes, be whip smart, and unattached to their personal image. No self conscious narcissists, please! I need the free freaks of the world.”
Slight grotesque absurdity litters Parker’s portraits, unsettling subtleties which Parker refers to as “a darkness and a gentle undercurrent of rage”. Parker Day’s imaginarium of fierce and frantic femme fury, interpreted in a wide spectrum of maven monstrosities and clownish coquettes, glitter and gleam in her saturated photographic mastery.
“We're all the same at the base of it… If I have any agenda in my work it's to foster empathy.”
Above all, Parker has a unique way of seeing and deconstructing identity all together: “We're all the same at the base of it, we all experience the same human emotions and what is our experience of life other than an emotional one. If I have any agenda in my work it's to foster empathy. I want a granddad in the Midwest to see something of himself in Yvonne's leopard spotted self.”
As an artist who has shown multiple times in Los Angeles and NYC galleries, as well as London, Barcelona, Milan and recently a solo show for ICONS in Zurich May 2018, we look forward to further ventures by this already prolific young artist. The ICONS collection has been made into an art book and is available for purchase at Not a Cult.
Follow Parker Day at IG@heyparkerday
Sunni Johnson is the Arts Editor of WUSSY and a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.