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Natura Morta

When I meet someone who doesn't really care about painting, and I tell them that I'm a painter, they usually ask something like "Oh, what do you do? Landscapes or still lives?" I associate this question with the fact that any art musuem worth its salt will dedicate some wall space to European still lives from the 15th-17th centuries. This method and genre of painting, through its historical and economic positions and its modern curation, became a major part of a viewer's idea of what painting is in Western traditions. Together with the commissioned portraiture that followed, it helped establish the idea that an oil painting is a personalized method of displaying wealth and power, an idea which continues to trouble painters today. Everyone knows what it's like to look at one of these paintings, but comparatively few know how their eye is being directed, or the complex symbology and history of the objects depicted. I think we often consider this genre like the classical music playing in the background in a nice restaurant. Even if it is boring, it is tied to a very specific history of aesthetics, class, and worldview that shaped the conditions of modern, globalized society. I think we also consider these conditions to be a natural, background state -- until they begin to break. By embracing and then breaking apart this material and visual tradition, I hope to also interrupt the viewer's ideas about what it is to see something, or to posess it.

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