The Still Life Tradition
Burnt Roses 1997
The still life tradition has its source in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Still life paintings by early modern artists were moral allegories which depicted the vanity of all earthly desires. Different varieties of flowers and fruits were symbols of earthly beauty and its ephemerality, reminders that all material life disappears while the kingdom of heaven alone remains. In a single image, painters would combine a universe of floral birth and death, encouraging the viewer to meditate on the transitory nature of human life and the power of God and History.
While in the 17th century flower painting had been a major genre of artistic expression, by the 19th century, the status of such work had declined. By this time an understanding of the complex iconography of still life painting had been lost and flower painting was seen then primarily as a genre of expression particularly suited to women because floral images were presumed to be apt metaphors for the grace and fragility of the female artist. In an interesting trans-valuation of these values, however, early 20th century feminist suffragettes used the iris as a symbol for female sexuality and strength.
Right Before Her Very Eyes 1992
Like those earlier women, in this series of work I elevate the importance of images that represent home, family and domesticity. Remembering my grandmother, the embroideress, and mother, the gardener, I note that the lives of women have historically been constrained, limited to that private sphere. In these etchings I incorporate items such as lace, embroidery and flowers with portraits of long dead girls and women in poses of constrained stillness, their faces and bodies the objects of the camera’s engrossed gaze. Their silence and impenetrability reveal nothing. They ask only for attention. These images speak of loss and retrieval, and are invitations to contemplate the history and conditions out of which the images were born.
F_ 18 (ETCHING)
This series of work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. To view sample exhibition catalogue excerpts, click on the following links: