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Artist in Profile (Aug ’14): Cornelia Parker

Artist in Profile (Aug ’14): Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker
Cornelia Parker. Photo by StOuen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cornelia Parker is a sculptor and installation artist based in London. She was born in the county of Cheshire in England during the year 1956 on a smallholding. Her work is highly regarded internationally for its dark, humorous, complex, ironic style. Cornelia Parker’s work is highly patterned with cultural reference to cartoons, which is a style she adapts for her need to capture objects in the moment before they dissipate and slide beyond any human perception.

Upon holistic examination, it can be seen that many themes drive her work forward; consumerism, globalisation, and the role of the mass media in modern life. In 1997, Cornelia Parker was nominated for the Turner Prize and also featured in the 8th International Sharjah Biennial held in Sharjah, UAE in 2007.

Early Life and Education

The Distance (A Kiss With Strings Attached), 2003
The Distance (A Kiss With Strings Attached) by Cornelia Parker, 2003 [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cornelia Parker lived a hard rural life with a sickly father who met and married his first girlfriend at the age of 34 years. Parker’s father married an ex- Luftwaffe nurse who was traumatised in the course of her war time duties. Life on the smallholding was hard physical work and tough for anyone with animal husbandry as paramount, which included milking the dairy cows and mucking out pig pens. Parker claims her father wanted a boy and was happy to stand in as surrogate son, coping well with the manual labour required.

After taking her foundation course at Cheltenham Art College, Cornelia went on to study art at Wolverhampton Polytechnic after being turned down by the larger London art colleges and received an MFA in 1982 from Reading University. After completing her Master’s degree she moved to London where she adopted a bohemian lifestyle on the fringes of East London and worked from home.

She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Gloucestershire over eight years in the 2000’s. Although she obtained teaching positions in the colleges that had originally rejected her, she remained extremely opposed to the commercial art market for many years and it was not until 1997 when she was nominated for the Turner prize that she had any representation from a gallery.

Marriage and Influences

Anti-Mass by Cornelia Parker, 2005
Anti-Mass by Cornelia Parker, 2005. Photo by Marc Smith, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Parker is married to the American artist, Jeff McMillan. The couple have a daughter Lily who was a later life baby with Cornelia Parker being 44 years of age when she fell pregnant. The pregnancy is depicted in a piece of artwork which features the nightgown that was worn in the film Rosemary’s Baby. Parker hoped to be able to wear this nightgown for the birth of her own child but it was too small in size hence she created an art piece instead.

Many of Parker’s art pieces are created for the singularity of a particular place at a particular time. For example, Parker prevailed upon the British Army to create an explosion in a garden shed suspending the fragments from the explosion in the air around an illuminated source that cast shadows of the fragments onto the walls.

The work went on display at the Tate Modern.

Hanging Fire by Cornelia Parker
Hanging Fire by Cornelia Parker. Image from and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Parker developed a striking style with suspended sculpture, and another work is “Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson)” (1999) in which charred pieces of a building allegedly destroyed by arson are suspended by pins and wires in a pattern which is somehow geometric yet chaotic.

Cornelia Parker has now had many solo exhibitions in Europe, UK and USA. Her works have been exhibited in many prestigious venues including the Serpentine Gallery, London (1998), the Galeria Civica de Arte Moderne in Turin (2001), Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, California (2005), and Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima Peru (2008).

The work of Cornelia Parker has also been included in various group exhibitions and public collections at MOMA New York, Tate Gallery London, British Council, Henry Moore Foundation, and many other places.