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Natura Morta

This series engages directly with the traditional methods, visual conventions and historical placement of still life painting, a genre that heavily informs the idea of what painting is in the Western canon. Any respectable museum will make sure to hang at least one passable still life. Nearly all viewers have a sense of how to look at them, sharing a visual vocabulary that is part of how we look at art.

Most of these subjects reflect the values and concerns of the ruling class of a specific time and place that drew their wealth from a colonialist global economy. The exotic fruits, imported porcelain, and spoils of the ocean were meant to please the eyes of men who built their empires on shipping and extraction. Visual richness is, here, intertwined with material wealth. These conditions in which art is made, viewed, and traded should be familiar to anyone aware of the current conditions of the international art market, its relationship to global capital, and its influence on what is painted, how paintings are read, and what visual politics are reinforced.

The seductive visual style of this kind of painting encourages an aesthetic experience that’s often at odds with the history of many of the depicted objects. Similarly, there is a sense that there is a specific meaning to these pictures that could once be decoded but is now generally illegible. By interrupting, breaking down, and getting “wrong” the conventions of this genre, I mean to expose the way that these images of desire come together in our eyes. Within these conventions are sophisticated methods to lead and trick the eye, which have helped form our concepts of realism, depiction, and “accurate” perception. These conventions too can be interrupted and dissected for the viewer, laid out like desirable objects to be appreciated.

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