Artist Frida Khalo wrote this about a still life she created: “I paint flowers so they will not die.” I recently visited a still life exhibit that graced the walls of a local art museum for a few months. The exhibit included “both traditional and unexpected approaches to still life” presented in “examples of still life from across the state” (from the exhibit description). Some phrases and insights emerged for me as I viewed the exhibit and read the descriptions of the various pieces:
Preserved “to do” lists from times gone by
Meal tables abandoned
Imbuing objects with values they do not possess on their own
Exotic flowers in uncommon places
Macro view of life and world.
Still life, still living.
The exhibit, along with Khalo’s quote, stirred some questions for me:
What things in our lives do we seek to remember and preserve, so that they will not die?
What things do we return to again and again, so they will not die?
What things do we sing, create, imagine, so they will not die?
The irony, for me, is that many of these things are at the same time both still lifes and still living.
This summer I discovered a new personal interest—photography—that has expanded my reflections on how elements of daily living are still lifes and still living. With a new digital camera now with me on some of my travels, I began to see the world and its aliveness in a new way and to preserve or set apart my own still lifes of that new perspective. The photos posted here are examples. I captured one of them while standing near my end-of-summer vegetable garden. The other was a surprise front yard “capture.” As I began to save photos from my new camera to computer files, I recalled that some of the still lifes in the art exhibit were given titles that attempt to communicate something about what the artist intended. Alas, I am not adept at crafting insightful titles or captions, so I invite you to imagine a caption for one or both of these photographic still lifes or for your own still life. What do you hope both to preserve and to keep alive as you encounter life’s gifts and complexities.