Olivia Parker began her career as a painter, and became involved in photography in 1970. During her 1997 residency, she used the Gardner Museum galleries to make new work in photography and other media. Her residency coincided with the two-person special exhibition Olivia Parker and Jerry Uelsmann: Dwellings of the Imagination that included 13 of her works. These works made use of found objects, photomontage, digital manipulation, multiple negatives, and other studio and darkroom techniques, creating evocative juxtapositions which some viewers equated with Isabella Stewart Gardner's unconventional gallery installations. Parker returned later in the year to work with students participating in the Museum’s school partnership program, and to give a lecture about her pieces in the special exhibition.
Olivia Parker has had more than 100 one-person exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and her work is represented in major private, corporate, and museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Portfolios of her work have been published in Art News, American Photographer, Camera, Camera Arts, The Sciences, and numerous other magazines in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Monographs devoted to Parker’s work include Signs of Life (Godine, 1978), Under the Looking Glass (New York Graphic Society, 1983), and Weighing The Planets (New York Graphic Society, 1987).