No. 15 Still Life
To the casual viewer, still life painting has never been the exciting character of the art world. While Cezanne may be responsible for our collective subconscious visual archetype of what fruit should look like, but he doesn’t always get the praise of the Impressionist’s color palette, or to the Abstract Expressionist’s massive scale and freedom. Images of life post-mortem are not likely to draw the same crowds as Adams’ images of Half Dome, or Arbus’ portraits of streetwalkers. Hundreds will be passed over on a daily basis en route to a tiny painting of an average looking woman in the Louvre.
The still life, on the surface, seems ordinary and plain. You could argue they are little more than fruit on a table, flowers in a vase, trophies from the hunt, or last representations of a loved one. For anyone who has ever taken an art class, still lifes almost certainly have been the first two, three, or ten assignments. They are the standard for practical art training, but artists today continue to make them because the still life is so much more.
The immobile composition will help the student learn shape, color, light, and composition, but the seemingly simple moment in time can also be loaded with symbolic meaning and expression. Giorgio Morandi found them important enough to be the main approach to his over 1300 paintings completed during his career. Outside of the image on canvas, to the Dutch masters who created economical images for the working class, the still life could be a medium for social change.
After almost 2000 years in one form or another, the style persists. What meanings are there still to pack, and unpack? Where is the room for still life artworks in the scope of new and mixed media? How much further can we push Still Life, and how much further can it push us?
Jorge Lucero is an artist and Assistant Professor of Art Education at The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. His current research is concerned with the intersections of contemporary art practices with distinctly pedagogical properties and how those modes-of-operation propose alternative approaches to making, learning, relationships, ethics, spirituality, generativity, and civic engagement. You can view his work at www.jorgelucero.com.
Katherine Spinella (b. 1985, Detroit) is an internationally exhibiting installation artist whose work incorporates painting and sculpture. She received her MFA at the University of Oregon in 2013, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including residencies at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosedale, NY and Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA. Katherine currently resides in Eugene, Oregon. You can view her work at www.katherinespinella.com.
Jessi DiTillio is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. She has worked in a diverse range of contemporary art institutions, from artist collectives in Ghana to nonprofit galleries and alternative performance spaces in New York City. Following her study of studio art and cultural theory at New York University, she earned her MA in Art History at the University of Oregon. Most recently, she curated the exhibition Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power.
Lauren Camp is the author of two poetry collections, This Business of Wisdom (West End Press, 2010) and most recently, The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith Publishing, 2013). Her poems have been published in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak and Feminist Studies. She is a radio producer and host on Santa Fe Public Radio, and also an acclaimed visual artist. You can view her work at www.laurencamp.com.
Andi Crist was born in Birmingham, Alabama and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2011. In 2010 she co-founded Autotelic—a community artists studio that gives emerging artists affordable and accessible workspace in a community-centric environment. Working primarily with found or scavenged material, Crist’s objects and paperworks are rooted in appropriation and reconstruction. You can view her work at www.acrist.com.
Ryan Kelly is a writer from the Midwest who now resides in San Diego, CA. His work has appeared in Fiction International, Black Scat Review, and the San Diego Reader, among others. He has a forthcoming publication in Pacific Review. Find him online at www.ryanfranciskelly.com or on Twitter @RFrancisKelly.
Karen Bovinich (b. Dallas, TX) is a performance, sculpture and installation artist, currently working in Chicago, IL. Bovinich is one half of the collaboration, Jesus Mejia + Ruth, with artwork recently displayed at the Chicago Cultural Center, 6018North and Hyde Park Art Center. For more information, please visit jesusmejiaruth.com.
Victoria Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist from Chicago who received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has exhibited at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Columbia College, the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota. Visit victoria-martinez.com to experience more work.
Jennifer Bartell is a native of Johnsonville, South Carolina. She is an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and is an alumna of Agnes Scott College. Her poetry has been published in Jasper Magazine, The Art of Medicine in Metaphors anthology, Letras Caseras, The Double Dealer, 2013, decomP and forthcoming in A Sense of the Midlands. She is the 2013-2014 Dean’s MFA Fellow and is also a co-editor of Yemassee, USC’s literary journal.
Luke Shalan is a Bay Area artist working in Oakland, CA. He will be receiving his BFA in Ceramics from California College of the Arts this May. His work can be viewed at http://cargocollective.com/lukeshalan.
Chris Bauer received his Bachelors in Fine Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago focusing solely on photography. After many years of working odd jobs from pizza delivery driver to car wash attendant, he found a camera, and all he cares to think about is photography. He started his own photography business in order to immerse himself into the field, and has been shooting or editing every day since getting out of school. He hopes to further his creating and focus more on producing and sharing how he sees the world. Chris currently lives and works in Chicago and St. Louis. You can view his work at www.cbauerphotography.com.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson has been published by and received honors from: the Academy of American Poets, Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, Journal of American Folklore, NANO Fiction, STILL, Kentucky Women Writers, and others. She was Tidal Basin Review’s inaugural Poetry Series Center Feature poet, which featured her series poem “Calf Canyon” and an interview.
Kirsten Leenars, born and raised in the Netherlands, works in her video projects with specific communities, incorporating them into her work to explore the nature of human interactions, professional and personal, real and fictional. She has shown and developed projects at the MCA, Glass Curtain Gallery, Threewalls, 6018 North, and Gallery 400, Printed Matter NY, and at the Witte de With, Rotterdam, Kunst Fabrik, Munchen. Leenaars is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Practices department at SAIC. You can view her work at www.kirstenleenaars.nl.
Raychael Stine’s work features dogs in intimate situations and paintings residing between peculiar states of abstraction and representation. She has exhibited at Art Palace Gallery, Houston, Eugene Binder, Marfa, Denise Bibro Gallery, NY, A + D Gallery, Chicago among others. Her work was featured in New American Paintings, The Texas Biennial, and she is professor of Painting and Drawing at the UNM. For more information visit www.raychaelstine.com.
Brian Kim is a writer and teacher who lives in Sunnyside, Queens, NY. He has been published online in The Telegram Review and has a forthcoming story in The Literary Review.