"Dirk Staschke, The Vanitas of Peeling a Lemon" by Garth Clark

Mark Moore Fine Art
Feb 20, 2018 7:00PM

This first exhibition with Mark Moore Fine Art by Dirk Staschke, IN BETWEEN, a paean to the craftsmanship and recognition of death as part of life from the vanitas paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, could easily have been consigned to “so what category.” Yes, the craft is extraordinary but if they had been nothing more than frontal attacks on the paintings and mounted on the wall, the exhibition would have failed. Craft alone is rarely enough.

Dirk Staschke
Structure of an Image, 2017
Mark Moore Fine Art

Dirk Staschke did something imaginative and unique, he turned the 2D into 3D; the paintings stand in the round on pedestals. The front is ravishing and sets the scene but it is the back with its muscular urgency that gives the work energy and rawness that justifies his play with the preciousness of the vanitas still life images he has converted into relief sculpture. The dialogue between front and back is often dynamic and perverse, cutting the stylish elegance with a visceral reality.

Vanitas is associated with still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in 16th and 17th centuries although practiced elsewhere as well. Also it is close to the schools of Danse Macabre and Momento Mori. The title comes from the term vanity and speaks to the transient nature of wealth and beauty, all soon enough to be swallowed up by death. Its common themes include butchered meat, food, rotting plants and flowers and insects eating at perfection. The peeled lemon was a regular image as well, alluding to the bittersweet qualities of life.

Above all it allowed painters to display the most virtuosic, near realist, trompe l’eoil skills. In recent years there has been a great deal of contemporary interest in this period of work at a time when, paradoxically, death is viewed more fearfully and resisted more strenuously than it was in the 16th century.

Alternate View: DIRK STASCHKEStructure of an Image, 2017Ceramic, Wood, Epoxy43 × 29 × 5 in (109.2 × 73.7 × 12.7 cm)

Detail Image: DIRK STASCHKEStructure of an Image, 2017Ceramic, Wood, Epoxy43 × 29 × 5 in (109.2 × 73.7 × 12.7 cm)

Northwest ceramicist Dirk Staschke likes to blur boundaries. His work teeters between a wink and a smile and serious contemplation about the value of art. His latest body of work, Executing Merit, takes pleasure in forcing us to look behind the curtain, at the less-attractive process of creating beautiful sculptures.

At first glace his works are refined homages to traditional still-life paintings, complete with ornate frames. As you move around, you get a full view of the work and the process involved in creating them. Unfinished clay bunches and bulges together to support the carefully detailed fronts. Staschke asks us to consider what part medium plays in the value placed on a work of art, and if knowing the process to create it adds or diminishes to that value. Such weighty questions might feel somber, but Staschke’s playfulness and sense of humor make the task pleasurable.

This is an ambitious project that Staschke pulps off with aplomb. We have watched his skills of mimicry grow from body to body of work for a decade now and they have dropped their slightly candy-sculpture feel (as though he was working with marzipan) and now his mastery leaves him free to play with content.


Soliloquy #2, 2016 / Ceramic, Scrap, Wood, Epoxy / 29 x 24 x 16 inches

Lastly, there is Confection. It has nothing to do with vanitas aside from the food connection. It is well-titled, as the artist appears to be taking a break from death and simply enjoying himself. If it is some kind of ode to painting then it must be a homage to Wayne Thiebaud’s delicious canvasses of fresh cake and butter icing.

Dirk Staschke earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from The University of Montevallo, Alabama and his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Alfred University, in New York. His work has been shown internationally and is included in the permanent collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX; Icheon Museum, World Ceramic Center, Gwango-dong, South Korea.

Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile

Dirk Staschke in the studio

Mark Moore Fine Art is very pleased to announce the first online exhibition of the work of DIRK STASCHKE in an exclusive featured ARTSY feature this Spring 2018.  

This ARTSY online Exhibition can be viewed now at:  https://www.artsy.net/show/mark-moore-fine-art-dirk-staschke

“I make sculptures based on paintings in what is traditionally considered a craft medium. In this translation, the sculptural representation of still life painting creates abstract forms. The results are beautifully made objects that simultaneously expose the crude structures of their creation.The pieces are both a simple exploration of residual forms derived from representation and a question regarding the merits of an Art object.” - Dirk Staschke  

For additional information please go to:  http://www.markmoorefineart.com/artists/dirk-staschke

Mark Moore Fine Art