Years ago, in a set of Time-Life art-photography books, I ran across an intriguing photo-collage called "Is this how youth and radiance leave us?", by Bart Parker. While most of the images from those books have long since departed my memory, several have remained: chief among them, "Youth and Radiance".
It was a simple piece: just three shots of a styrofoam cup of coffe, a few brown droplets clinging to its side. All three shots from odd angles: angles at which you seldom see a coffee.
For years, all it was to me was a silly photo that somehow managed to lodge itself in my mind. But now, well, I can see a clear path away from youth and radiance in every opportunity to use a styrofoam cup. In every chance to imbibe instant coffee and microwave a TV dinner.
How do youth and radiance leave us? By convenience. Youth is inconvenient because of its unpredictability. And radiance — well, radiance takes more work than I'd like to put forth sometimes.
I ran across a New York Times review (June 7, 1981) of a small surrealist show at Brookdale Community College's (Lincroft, New Jersey) Gallery 10. All it had to say was the cryptic, eighties-avant-garde (and might I call it "emperor's-new-clothes"):
For Mr. Parker, photography is an adjunct to thought and, interested in verbal "systems," he tells somewhat obscure stories through multiple images with words. For example, three shots of a cup of coffee are captioned, "Is this how youth and radiance leaves us?"
Surely they can see more than that? Why, if I were an art critic, I could see that tripe in seventeen collages before breakfast!
But still, the battle between convenience and radiance isn't a battle between cleanliness and squalour, nor is it a grand duel between Light and Darkness. It is simply the battle between doing and not doing.
See Bart Parker's gallery at bartparker.com