Eyeing the 100 faces of Parker Day’s ICON series which opens Thursday, makes me feel like I’m 31 going on 13 again and everything is going to be okay. There’s a nontraditional standard of beauty in all her photos, with her subjects’ eyes glaring, mouths sneering, and cheeks sparkling. Each model brings their own shine to the image, and Day turns up every detail to 11. The lowbrow film exposures are gritty, dusty, and sometimes scratched, but it’s all controlled chaos. It’s everything my mother told me not to do “or else.” So I challenged Day to a game of Truth or Dare to talk about all the glitter and glam that goes into making it as an artist—and an adult.
MERCURY: Who is your “icon”?
PARKER DAY: Never had one! I remember being a kid and wondering why people had heroes and cherished idols and I felt sorta left out that I didn’t have an icon to revere.
What do you collect?
Cats. And also clothes and tchotchkes I can use as props in my shoots. I’m a thrift store addict. I go at least once a week and look at everything in the store, definitely bordering on OCD.
What advice do you have for young artists?
I’m gonna borrow it from John Waters: “Have faith in your own bad taste!” Dive into what gets you excited and mine it for all it’s worth, don’t worry if it’s good or if people will like it, just [that] it gets you going. Others will follow.
What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
When I was a wee little girl my mom asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I stopped, pondered, and said with the utmost sincerity: “a strawberry.”
What was the first social media-esque site you remember using?
Friendster was the shit. People would write “testimonials” on your wall, which were so oddly stuffy and grandiose when the site started. Like, people would say what a swell and upstanding person you were like they were your proud pop talking you up to a prospective employer.
Did kids ever tease you growing up?
Not really other than the bor-ring “Parker? That’s a boys name!” *rolls eyes* I was homeschooled first through eighth grade so I was safely ensconced in a bubble that let me be as weird as I wanted while my peers suffered through that hazing of middle school.
Do you ever stress out your film before exposing?
Nah. I like control too much to play around with all that.
What were you obsessed with while growing up?
Swiftly rolling through little kid to big kid: Legos, playing pretend and dress-up games, Sailor Moon, learning Japanese, X-Men, Nine Inch Nails, the movie The Crow (I deeply identified with the skater girl with the undercut who was basically my doppelganger).
I dare you to list all your recently used emoji here.
I’m not on my phone so I’ll awkwardly tell you it’s the okay hand and the magical golden sparkles. I think it captures my PMA and goofy sense of humor nicely.
I dare you to use ascii-art-generator.org with one of your recent photos, and share it with us.
I dare you to visit archive.org and plug in your first website URLs, and share any screen shots that come of it.
Not much too find. The best I could do was find a flyer I made for a party I promoted called Stiletto from June 9, 2008 on the party’s MySpace page:
I dare you to show a photo of yourself at 13.
WOULD YOU RATHER...
...photograph someone you know well, or someone you just met?
Just someone who I can have a real connection with. Some people I’ve known for years I feel awkward around and others I’ve just met I have instant rapport with. If I sense someone’s guarded or putting up a false front it spooks me and I feel really nervous. Just tell me how you really feel!
...make all your own props or buy them?
BUY BUY BUY
...do it yourself or collaborate?
A little from column A, a little from column B.
...make a mess or clean one up?
Can’t have one without the other.
...see into the future or revisit the past?
All we’ve got is NOW NOW NOW.
... plan ahead or figure it out on the spot?
I like to make plans, but not so rigid that I block out the genius of intuition.
Finally, I dare you to visit to Portland!
I’ll accept your dare and raise you an art opening: my solo show for ICONS opens today, Thursday March 30, 5-9pm through April 24, at Screaming Sky Gallery, 2025 NE Alberta.