When arranging items for a still life I choose things that appeal to me for their color and shape but also for sentimental or personal meaning. My newest work includes a piece of pottery I made, a figurine given to me by my grandmother and a cross stitch cloth made in the 1950s by my husband’s grandmother. In my last still life painting I chose a piece of pottery made by one of my oldest friends, a wooden carved bowl and a painting from Guatemala.
The still life genre can be traced back to Dutch painting from 17th century. As the middle class grew in Europe, artists began creating art for homes, rather than churches or institutions. The art from this “golden age of Dutch painting” continues to influence some realistic artists today who hold the high level of finish these artists created as a standard of excellence.
The still life affords the artist control over composition, lighting, color and meaning or symbolism. Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne painted the still life so he could study the objects over time, rejecting the idea that only transient light effects that the Impressionists focused on were important. Picasso and Braque used the still life to explore how three dimensional space could be translated into two dimensions differently by emphasising shifting angles and overlapping forms, without reference to local color or specific light effects.
I use the still life motif for its flexibility and challenge. What color, composition and form problems can I solve? What can these objects say to each other or to me?