In Her Homemade Vivarium, Photographer Sharon Core Traverses Painting’s Uncanny Valley

Apr 26, 2016 5:51PM

A master of illusion, Sharon Core is known for her deeply researched re-creations of classic still life paintings. In the last decade, she has investigated the work of Raphaelle Peale and Wayne Thiebaud, replicating their still life arrays in nearly perfect photographs of her own.

Core’s work, a selection of which is on display at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York, leans more toward postmodern considerations than the careful, often morbid symbolism peddled by past masters. Though she calls upon the familiar tones and staging of classic still life paintings, her assiduously executed photographs are what one reviewer called multilevel trompe l’oeil, “trumping the eye by turning a painting that aspires to lifelikeness into a photograph that aspires to painting.”

Oddly enough, Core found it difficult to maintain this modern approach. For instance, she has said it was nearly impossible to find rotting fruit or imperfect flowers for her series based on Peale’s paintings.

So, near her home studio in the Hudson Valley, Core created her own agricultural endeavor: She built a geodesic dome/greenhouse full of the sorts of flora and fauna she wants to portray. “I wanted to include the flowers, the leaves, the ripening fruit, the ripe fruit, the overripe fruit,” she has said.

Formally gorgeous and slightly unsettling, this new series, “Understory,” is an extension of Core’s practice both as an art historian and as a self-sufficient cultivator. The slugs, moss, and natural decay of her hyper-controlled ecosystem have afforded her new sources of photographic inspiration as she conjures the deep colors, stark lighting, and perfect blacks of oil and acrylic masterpieces.

—M. Osberg

Sharon Core: Understory” is on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, Mar. 24–May 7, 2016.

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