Still Life


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What is Still Life?

They can even be whimsically based on objects that start with the same letter of the alphabet, or things you might find in a typical junk drawer in someone's kitchen. And of course, all of these themes can overlap to weave a richly layered tapestry of theme and meaning within a single artwork! Historically, still life paintings were deeply imbued with religious and mythological meaning. This was a reflection of the times; the Church was the center of everyday life. Class hierarchy was deeply embedded - everyone knew their place and stayed within it.

STILL LIFE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary

By the 16th century, society was changing. As science gained more of a stronghold, religious themes fell by the wayside. The natural world was now interesting to observe and record in its own right, not for religious or mythological purposes. As history rattled towards the midth century, depicting the natural world was starting to go out of fashion. Now the art world was more interested in exploring our inner world of moods and emotions. As we sped through the 20th century, still lifes dissolved into geometry as objects were abstracted more and more on the canvas.

By the end of the millenium, the object depicted in paintings were exhalted as commodity and recognized for their commercialism , as in the Pop Art and Photorealism movements. If you're not exhausted after quickly careening through the history of the still life as an art form, let's close this section by examining how one of my paintings, Yellow-Orange , encompasses a few different themes.

What is this painting about? Well, let's take a closer look. There are four objects in the painting: a toy duck, a candy in a clear plastic wrapper, a Tootsie Pop, and a shiny marble. What do they have in common? Well, the most obvious shared trait, also echoed in the title of the piece, are the predominating colors of yellow and orange.

These are a variety of different objects that all share a similar color scheme, so they work well together visually. Is that all they have in common? Let's examine their function - what are they used for in everyday life?

Still Life

Two pieces of candy and two toys Hmm, these objects signify childlike fun! The candies give great pleasure, and the toys bring great joy In this painting, they are a collection of objects sitting still against a stark white background. They symbolize the potential for future fun, as well as conjure up memories of past fun. In the present , they are just simply there. Simply being. And what about that stark white background Well, ask yourself: what does the white background cause my eyes and mind to do?

When he tried to rejoin the team at the start of his junior year, the coaches had ordered him to spend a few weeks on the JV squad. He was five feet eleven inches tall and weighed pounds. That afternoon, the junior varsity was playing Spruce High School, and John was determined to show the coaches what he could do. This was the week, he vowed to his buddies, that he would be promoted to varsity. When it arrived fifteen minutes later, John was still on the ground, his body strangely still.

But as soon as he was wheeled into Presbyterian Hospital, doctors knew he was in trouble. They gave him a complete neurological exam, scraping a pencil across the bottoms of his feet and taking X-rays, then ordered that his head be shaved and two small holes be bored into the top of his skull. Large tongs, like the ones used to carry blocks of ice, were attached to the holes, and seventy pounds of weight was hung from the tongs in an attempt to realign his spine.


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Ann McClamrock was 54 years old, a striking woman, green-eyed with strawberry-blond hair. The doctor told Ann that John had severely damaged his spinal cord and was paralyzed from his neck down. He was able to swivel his head from side to side, but because his circulatory system had been disrupted, causing his blood pressure to fluctuate wildly, he could not lift his head without blacking out.

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At least outwardly, Ann seemed to take the diagnosis rather calmly. Or maybe, she later told her friends, she had simply been unable to comprehend the full meaning of what the doctor was saying. It was right then, with the family all together, that Ann felt the tears coming.

Hollow Front - Still Life (ACOUSTIC)

She slowly turned to the doctor, her hands trembling. He is going to have a good life. John made it through the night and then through the next day. His friends flocked to the hospital, many of them dropped off at the front door by their parents. One night, nearly one hundred kids were in the ICU waiting room, all of them signing their names on a makeshift guest register—a legal pad—pinned to a wall. There were so many phone calls coming into the hospital about John that extra operators were brought in to work the switchboard.

And at Hillcrest alone, there was a bake sale, a benefit basketball game, a bowl-a-thon, a fifties dance, and even a paper drive conducted by the Ecology Club. After one of the national wire services ran a story about John, letters began pouring in from all over the country. A group of North Carolina women who attended Sunday school together mailed John a card with an encouraging Bible verse.

John received hand-drawn get-well cards from Texas schoolchildren and sentimental notes from teenage girls who had never met him.

Still life

Then, in November, a letter arrived at the hospital from the most unlikely place of all: the White House. You have a devoted family and many friends cheering for you, and we are proud to join them in sending warm wishes to you always. In December doctors suggested that John be moved to the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, in Houston, which specialized in spinal injuries.

Maybe someone down there could figure out a way to get him to move, they said.

When he left Presbyterian, there were nearly four thousand names listed on the guest register. While Ann lived in an apartment near the rehabilitation center and Mac and Henry visited on weekends, John stayed in a ward with other paralyzed men, going through two hours of physical therapy every day. The following March, when forty of his high school friends showed up to surprise him on his eighteenth birthday—they gave him the new albums by Elton John and Chicago—he was too weak to blow out the candles on his cake.

But he assured them that the therapy was working.

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But late that spring, doctors met with Ann, Mac, and Henry in a conference room. One of the staffers took a breath. Mac, Henry, and a couple of others carried John, who was wearing his Hillcrest football jersey, into the house. They twisted him into a sort of L shape as they turned down the hall and turned again into the guest bedroom, where they laid him on a hospital bed with a laminate headboard. To make everything look as normal as possible, Ann redecorated the bedroom, hanging photos on the wall of John in his uniform.

On a set of shelves she displayed footballs that had been autographed by members of various NFL teams, and she also placed the football from the Spruce game, which had been signed by his teammates. Because she had heard John tell his friends that he was determined to go hunting again, she had Mac buy a Remington gauge shotgun, which she hung on another wall.

Here is where you are going to get better. She shaved him, clipped his nails, brushed his teeth, gave him a sponge bath, shampooed his hair, and scratched his nose when it itched. She fed him all his meals, serving him one bite of food after another, and she taped a straw to the side of his glass so that he could drink on his own. She changed his catheter and emptied the drainage bag when it filled up with urine, and she dutifully cleaned his bottom as if he were a newborn whenever he had a bowel movement. To prevent bedsores, she turned him constantly throughout the day, rolling him onto one side and holding him in place with pillows, then rolling him onto his back, then rolling him to his other side—over and over and over.

From Monday through Saturday, she almost never left the house. Afterward, she drove to Tom Thumb, the same one where John used to work, to buy groceries.

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