Still life is a contemplative kind of painting. When you think about it, what does a still life offer? It’s simply a set of objects to gaze upon. Sometimes the objects may have clear symbolic meanings, but often — perhaps most of the time — the objects are just themselves. They might not even be fully themselves, depending upon how they’ve been painted. In the still lifes of my hero Matisse, sometimes the objects are caricatures of themselves, sometimes they are almost cartoon versions of things — bounded by heavy contour lines, generalized into broad colors.
To place overmuch attention to the acquisition of things is called “materialism,” in our culture (which has some uneasy feelings about its various economic successes). And yet we live in a world of objects, and we build our human nests (after a fashion) and fill them with things we think we need or that we cherish. And so still life painting puts the focus squarely upon the things. It offers up the quiet drama of things — or possibly a vision of sentimental attachments — or reflections of private life.
The paper horse was something I rediscovered while cleaning the attic, a relic of my daughter’s childhood when we routinely made things from paper. I brought it down and it almost instantly landed on the still life table. All the objects have some bit of sentimental energy in them (for me, possibly visible to the viewer too). But the objects on the table also seem to insist upon their abstract presence. They are simply and frankly things. Bound to the table by gravity, visible by the light they reflect, they simply are. So they hang there in space like planets revolving around a star or like the particles that physicists tell us make up the physical cosmos.
They have an abstract beingness. They just are. They are stuff. And what do artists do? They look at stuff and copy it into pictures.
Paper Horse measures 48 x 36 inches, is painted in acrylic paint on canvas.