Pushing the boundaries of a still life

This past month has been a whirlwind of change for me. I've been exercising on purpose (and if you know me, you know that I usually don't go for that type of thing), finally getting into healthier eating habits (my mom can be happy now, lol) and overall getting my life organized and back on track. So blogging had become lower on the priority list while I got myself heading down a better path. I now proudly boast a fabulously clean studio and now that it's clean, I want to paint! I haven't picked up a brush since last May on the 2nd annual Sons of Turner Tour 2010, and that is far too long.

So today as I start thinking about what kind of art that I do (still life) I have to ask some questions. Such as: Why do people associate fruit with still life? (Not to mention jars, bowls, vases, cups, etc.) What is it about kitchen supplies that get people excited about painting? Now I know there's all kinds of symbolism involved with the old timey paintings and such, but do those ideas transfer fluidly to today's culture and understanding? I hate still lifes of just "stuff" and when I look at the jumble of things people associate with still life objects, it doesn't mean anything to me. Why should I care about how nicely you painted that glass bowl? or that orange? (Not saying that nicely painted bowls are bad, just that why was it painted at all?). A painting of just stuff, has less of an impact than a painting that has meaning, or a purpose (in my opinion anyway).

Painters all have different reasons for painting these days. Rewind to the beginning of painting history and you see that the only reason people painted was so the illiterate could enjoy the stories too. Or it was for documenting things. Now, art is all kinds of things. A banana peel nailed to the wall (is it art? must be, it's here in a gallery).

Not that I've never used kitchen supplies in my own paintings, I just want to make sure that the object in question has a reason to be included. I want to go back in time to where pictures told a story. In order for my paintings to really hold up to my own standards, there has to be a reason beyond painting a picture that looks nice. What I end up with (I hope) relates to other people on a more personal level than just a painting that adds color to a room. I love the challenge of painting a portrait of someone using only objects that describe them/represent them symbolically. Usually this involves a group of ordinary objects that only gain meaning when they are placed together a certain way. Sometimes the biggest job is figuring out the perfect objects and tracking them down. Once that is done, the rest comes together nicely. 

"Mom and Me" 10x10 oil on birchwood 2009.