“Vanitas with Lemons” 16″ x 20″ Oil on canvas – Available
There’s an interesting adventure happening for me as I continue on this theme of painting vanitas inspired still life’s. Death and immortality aren’t things I like to think about on a daily basis. Yet this experience is showing me so much about the beauty of impermanence and it’s capacity to bring my attention into the present. In this process, my mind is being tapped for symbolic representations of things that carry on themes of immortality, death and the transience of achievement and acquisition of things.
In this painting I liked the idea of adding a burning candle as an earmark of transience. It will expire and in a less confrontational way connotes life and death, for me. The flowers are a more direct articulation of death in that they were expired hydrangea’s. Even in this state I found them full of artistry. The colors were soft muted browns infused with hints of pink and they provided a nice contrast to the vibrant lemons even in their delicate and brittle state.
As far as the earthly pleasure component of a vanitas painting I thought of the warmth felt by the body as a sip of wine is taken and the worries and fears of the heart are comforted, temporarily. So many virtues and vices teeter on the edge of each other. The books one might collect for knowledge and the vase for floral decoration, not unlike the fabric, all stand as things that can be coveted for a time until the truth settles in about the mortal human experience. Art too, can be placed in the realm of earthly pleasures and a symbolic note of wealth and power.
In as much as vanitas were often somber paintings that commented on the futility of pursuing pleasure and the certainty of death, they too became objects of beauty and acquisition. They ultimately gave way to a moral justification for painting beautiful objects and the evolution of still life painting today. In that sense, vanitas were quite progressive.