Still Alive is a group still-life show curated by Harriet Burbeck. Its opening reception at Big Blue Gallery, 410 W. Lowe Ave., takes place on Friday, February 2, 6–9 p.m., with a closing reception on Saturday, February 24, 6–9 p.m.
A still life is an artwork that depicts objects—things that were never alive, and things that used to be alive. This inanimate subject matter is the focus of a February group show at Big Blue. Exhibit curator Harriet Burbeck has asked a selection of artists to create works that use this lens to explore ideas about life and death.
The artists participating include Jenny Sammons, Jeffrey Rinehart, Steve Prettyman, Judy Bales, Rae Swon, Mary Lisa Fritz, Alison Stimson, Amarnath Stimson, and others, and they have interpreted the theme in a wide variety of ways.
Amarnath Stimson has taken a traditional approach, with paintings of human skeletons rendered in lush chromatic grays. Ideas of rebirth are present in the works of his sisters, Alison Stimson, who has contrasted her softly abstracted skull drawing with clusters of mushrooms, and Rae Swon, whose oil-on-glass painting depicts drooping leaves and flowers accented with gold leaf, so that they appear glittery even in death. A visual connection to Dutch Baroque vanitas paintings can be seen in Judy Bales’s deeply contrasting and textural photographs of flowers, which are displayed as a triptych, allowing the viewer to perceive individual moments in time. Jeffrey Rinehart, a New Orleans-based painter, has used vibrant color to reinterpret the dead animal painting in a way that feels modern and fresh. The silhouette of a dead songbird lies somber and pathetic against a splash of yellow paint and a simple, red folding chair, a juxtaposition that seems like a reminder that death, the great mystery, is also commonplace.
Still-life imagery is typically rich with symbolism—everything means more than what it seems on the surface. This collection of works continues this tradition, each one a puzzle that appeals to the intellect as well as to the eye.