When visiting the subject of ‘still life’ painting there are echoes of the past that make themselves known. While this genre dates far back in the art historical cannon, it has continued to renew itself again and again throughout the ages. Many working artists today create works within the confines of what is termed ‘still life’ and present their viewers with a simultaneous experience of seeing work that has a deep resonance with the past as well as something new and original.
There are many ideas that also come to light upon viewing still life works, with vanitas being the most prevalent. The term, originally popularized in the 17th century, mainly pertains to the ideas of the transience of life, the fleeting nature of time and beauty, and the inevitability of death.
Typically this notion is symbolically displayed by a skull, a burning candle, decaying fruit, and the like. By using objects that have life expectancies so-to-speak, the viewer is able to grasp the larger ideas behind their usage. There is a sort-of haunting quality to ‘still life’ works, the longer a viewer lingers the more apparent the symbolism becomes.
With artists like Gregory Block we see these themes exemplified. In depicting a bright, white clove of garlic in the midst of its decay juxtaposed against a black background, the sense of light and dark, of life and death, make themselves known. The same can be said for the floral paintings of Kate Sammons, the work of Mia Bergeron, and many of the other artists that comprise The Object of Objects exhibition. It is with this idea of depicting objects which have the qualities of decay that prompt the viewer to contemplate their own mortality. It is important to draw distinctions here too. While these artists have all created work that fall under the category of still life they also differentiate themselves in terms of style, point of view, color choice, and other various details. Each artist has an acute perspective that comes through in their work which sets them apart. For instance, in Kate Sammons’ darkly toned “Stairs and Flowers” we see the artist take what, at first glance, seems like a beautifully painted flower arrangement; when the viewer takes a closer look, however, we see that Kate has incorporated a motif of staircases and a hallway among the floral elements. Moments such as this are seen throughout this exhibition. Put all together these artists and their works comprise a clear and coherent meditation on ‘still life’ painting, how it resonates with the past and how it remains prevalent today.
The entire list of participating artists is as follows: Mia Bergeron, Gregory Block, Suchitra Bhosle, David Cheifetz, Dianne L. Massey Dunbar, Greg Gandy, David Gluck, Zoey Frank, Michael J Lynch, Dan McCaw, Danny McCaw, John McCaw, C.W. Mundy, Kate Sammons, Kevin Weckbach, and Jordan Wolfson