A “still life,” whether a painting, photograph or a multimedia creation, brings to mind an assembly of flowers, bowls, bottles, and other objects, natural or man-made, arranged on some type of table surface. What constitutes a “still life” is broad and flexible with no defined rules. We think we will know it when we see it, to paraphrase an expression. With that in mind, a more serious still life work goes beyond a random assemblage of objects. It is a directed purposeful creation that conveys messages through a selection of objects imbued with symbolism from custom or religious association. Looking at the still life photography of Claire Rosen, Yelena Strokin, Robert Langham III, and Julia McLaurin in the exhibition “Fabled Flora,” we examine four different approaches to this art genre that literally span centuries of creative effort.
“The Good Dishes” by JP Terlizzi is photography-based artwork with a foundation in family tradition, history and culture. He broadens a classic still-life genre into a series of images that celebrate life and memory. “The Good Dishes integrates memory, legacy, and metaphor with my response to loss. As I witness an early generation of family members pass, my cousins and I were each tasked with the emotional challenge of cleaning out the family home. Sorting through the heirlooms, we would determine which items to toss, sell, or preserve. Without fail, when it came to the family’s fine china, that item was always given to the person that most cherished its memory and sentimental value.”