Thinking Through Things: A Still Life Painting Invitational
Joseph Holsapple, Joe Morzuch, Neil Callander, Sara Pedigo, Edmond Praybe, Amy Scherer, Christina Renfer Vogel, Samantha Haring, Tim Kennedy, Eve Mansdorf, Philip R. Jackson, Tom Walton, Daniel Riesmeyer, Anders Johnson, and Michael McCaffrey
“To think through things: that is the still life painter’s work.” –Mark Doty
Still life painters frequently turn their attention to the mundane and commonplace objects that populate our daily lives. These objects are at once close at hand and so often overlooked as to be nearly invisible. Their nearness and ubiquity is precisely what hides them from our sight, and the act of attending to them draws us closer to the immediate world around us. Still life painting is often about the act of looking (or, rather, the countless acts of looking that occur throughout the process of painting), and at its root is an attempt to inhabit our world more fully.
As a genre, still life is clearly attuned to the physicality and specificity of things, yet these things inevitably turn our attention away from themselves and towards the very act by which we see them. The poet Mark Doty writes that the work of the still life painter is to, “think through things.” Notably, he did not write “about them,” for at least as important as what we see is how we see it. The objects in a still life beckon us to slow down, and seem to offer themselves for our silent contemplation. Ultimately, to slow down the act of looking is to slow down our experience of time, as we are held suspended in a moment of visual arrest. The cups, shoes, and cans depicted in a still life serve as ballasts that stabilize our vision and reawaken our own awareness of ourselves as physical and temporal beings.
The end result is that the visible and tangible world, so often experienced at a blurred remove in our daily lives, is once again brought into focus. Still life painting offers a renewed immediacy: the intimacy of touch and prolonged sight are fused together in a surface of paint, and we are drawn near.
Each of the artists invited to participate in this show is remarkable for how they use still life to speak to these basic human experiences. Their work demonstrates the vitality and continuing relevance of still life, and I am proud, and humbled, to hang my work next to theirs.