Last Call: Still Lifes
Editor's note: Southern Glossary is a web-based magazine experimenting with different approaches to arts coverage. With a blend of feature writing and blogging, Southern Glossary hopes to provide wide-ranging communication among artists, performers, and art-lovers across the region.
In the City that Care Forgot, sometimes it feels like you have all the time in the world -- but sooner or later, exhibits close and the final curtain falls. Southern Glossary and NolaVie are partnering to provide an alternative to the standard arts review. Our monthly Last Call column will give readers fair warning and convincing reasons to catch an event before it's lights out.
The paintings of Amy Weiskopf remind me of nearly-forgotten vocabulary words from art appreciation classes, words like “chiaroscuro” and “trompe l'oeil.” Her exhibition Still Lifes, now on view at the Arthur Roger Gallery, features nearly 20 works that showcase Weiskopf’s meticulous, brightly colored portrayals of fruits and vegetables.
Her approach is formal, reminiscent of Baroque paintings from the 17th century, but stepping back from the finely wrought details of Weiskopf’s still lifes reveals a bigger picture, a context of femininity and domesticity that is best appreciated in person, surrounded by a gallery full of her work. Still Lifes closes on July 12, which leaves just a few more weeks for viewers to bask in the light of Weiskopf’s paintings.
When the old masters like Caravaggio and Rembrandt played with light and shadows, it was often a dark room illuminated by a single light source, like a candle on a table or a beam of light that streams in from a high window just out of frame. But Weiskopf does the opposite. She floods her paintings with light and uses the contrasting darkness of sparse shadows to make objects pop off the canvas. The fruit and vegetables that serve as her subjects shine bright as light reflects off a cluster of ruby red radishes or a bowl full of dark purple figs.
The combination of Weiskopf’s style and subjects strikes me as elegantly feminine, and her work recalls the fairy-tale kitchens of television chefs with names like “Nigella” and “Ina.” It’s easy to imagine a narrative for Weiskopf’s still lifes: a woman returning from the farmer’s market and carefully unpacking her Chinese cabbage and daikon radishes, setting them on the table just so. Or coming in from her garden, washing freshly picked green tomatoes and a single cucumber in a gleaming stainless-steel sink and placing them beside artisanal loaves bought fresh from the boulangerie. Her kitchen is filled with windows, and the sunlight pours in -- brightly at midday, but softer in the evening -- illuminating countertops and side tables that are remarkably free of clutter, except for the occasional earthenware bowl or a few seashells she found earlier that morning while walking along the shore.
“Still Life with Asparagus, Pecorino and Crackers” particularly lends itself to meditations on the good life. While many of Weiskopf’s paintings evoke a quiet solitude, this one is more lively. “Still Life with Asparagus, Pecorino and Crackers” suggests a dinner party and the bustle of activity that precedes the arrival of guests. The asparagus, still bound by red supermarket rubber bands, is balanced on top of a mixing bowl, waiting to be trimmed, or chopped, or tossed. The crackers are stacked neatly, but a few got knocked aside, and one rests precariously at the table’s edge. There’s work to be done, but soon friends will arrive, corks will be popped, and the evening will begin in earnest.
Weiskopf’s paintings elevate domestic life to something more exotic. Regional fruits and local delicacies like tropical longan berries, cold-weather quinces, and Italian Ossi dei Morti cookies become objects of beauty, worthy of being celebrated on canvas. The artist’s delicate renderings of the smallest details result in a body of work that invites careful viewing and rewards those who take the time to stop and pay attention.
Still Lifes, an exhibition of paintings by Amy Weiskopf, will be on view at Arthur [email protected], located at 434 Julia Street, until July 12. The gallery is open Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am–5 pm. The exhibition is free.