Carolinian – Arts & Entertainment
Issue: 4/1/02

Still Life Lives
By Kalia Brooks

Painting still life continues to remain popular with contemporary artists who wish to contribute their individual uniqueness to this classical genre. In a world full of countless works of art, creating something truly “original” is not always possible. This challenge is not unfamiliar to artists of the twenty-first century who find it difficult to continually keep artistic concepts fresh and new. The still life exhibited in Objects of Contemplation display how current artists have over come this obstacle by employing the fundamentals of historical art forms. Curator of Collections, Will South, poses the question, “After all the countless versions of fruit, cups, and odd objects grouped on a table why is this so?”
He suggests that the answer lies in the idea of participation. “Most artists participate in a world of ideas, sensations and possibilities, adding their individual voice to the chorus of world art…they may learn from other artists and what they see in museums and art centers, but they also have the entire history of world art from which to learn.” Still life painting affords student or professional artist, alike, the opportunity to revitalize this historical art form through individual statement.
Described as Objects of Contemplation, still life invites the viewer to meditate on the various arrangements of shapes, lines, and areas of color being explored by the artist. These endless combinations, designed to evoke a vivid range of emotional stimulation, have been criticized in recent years for their lack of political, theoretical, and historical issues. However, the curator disputes this criticism by adding, “…stimulation, of the senses remains an attractive activity. We revel in the intensity and subtleties of color, in the refinement of a thoughtful arrangement, and admire the achievement of a well-crafted image.” Still life also embodies a “philosophical attitude” of optimism. He continues, ” Still life affirms the world, and the things in the world, the simple and the complex, and our connection to the world in sight and feeling and desire. Still life asks us to know the objects around us, to scrutinize them, and to understand their value.”
Whether attracted to the sensual or symbolic content of still life, it has survived the avant-garde of the contemporary movement. As long as artists live in a world of objects, still life will continue to be a common form of statement sustained by an abundance of unconventional ideas.