Because I’ll be on the road for the second half of December, I remembered to plan ahead and carve some time at the front end of the month to make jewelry for December’s Art Bead Scene challenge. Full of rich colors and themes of the season, I knew I didn’t want to miss interpreting this piece of artwork into wearable form.
Still life artists suffer a deplorable lack of creativity when naming their art. This piece is entitled “Still Life with Tulips and Fruit Bowl” Sigh… It conveys the subject, but nothing of the spirit. This still life was painted by Susan Valadon in 1924, proof that the still life genre still inspires and is relevant generations beyond its inception. I’ve always been fascinated by still life because the form is so deceptively simple. At first glance, it’s an appealing collection of items. But if you keep looking, you find so much more. This art form speaks in symbolism and the more you look, the more you see. Most still life paintings have very dark backgrounds and use expert use of shading and color to vibrantly draw attention to a few objects in the foreground, as this example does. Note how the flowers and the bowl of fruit seem to leap out at you. The illusion is heightened by the objects sharing a similar color palette. Fruits and flowers are among the most common motifs in still life and both have special meaning within the genre. Flowers are beautiful but ephemeral and speak to the viewer of the fleeting beauty to be found in life. Fruits (during the golden age of still life) were luxury items along with fine fabrics (which you’ll often find in still life paintings too). In addition to being expensive commodities, fruits also took on a more spiritual aspect in paintings. Renaissance artists frequently depict the Christ child holding various fruits and were meant to symbolize the eternal life Christ offers. As a fruit in the garden of Eden made men mortal, Christ’s birth and sacrifice restores the promise of eternal paradise. Although absent in this painting, many still life works have skulking animals in the background, animals typically associated with decay and death. Still life is a fascinating look at the conflicting views of life and how to reconcile them. Life is full of beautiful things, but they are fleeting, and death and decay always are lurking. Ghosts on the edge of the focal, these reminders of mortality shadow our consciousness and our existence. Those who chase down happiness and luxury find at the end that they are the ones chased down by mortality. Still life urges one to appreciate the beauty to be found in the world, but not to set one’s hope and expectation on it. Turns out, this was a deeply personal theme for me to ponder on this Christmas season as I made my jewelry inspired by the painting.
My necklace is a still life in its own way – a collection of items that I love that speak to me of the places where I find beauty – the forests. I returned to a favorite necklace design that features another magnificent polymer clay bird from Humblebeads. I have a passion for Gardanne enameled leaves – and this oak leaf in shades of mottled green, red, and brown is a favorite of mine. Birds and leaves are among my favorite things on earth. I also added in a little pine cone. Czech glass beads and rhinestone spacers remind me of the shiny pebbles I like to pick up on my hikes. My pockets are always full of feathers, pressed leaves, acorns, rocks, pieces of bark…
The earrings are made with some lovely charms by Humblebeads – full of dynamic patterns in red and green. I paired them with elements from the necklace – czech glass, smaller rhinestone spacers, and copper pinecones.
I like how this set captured the color palette and created a dimensional still life of images that are important to me. This Christmas finds my family in some difficult times and it’s been hard to feel any of the seasonal spirit as we’re going through this. Studying the still life and making this jewelry helped refocus my heart on the message of this genre of art offers. The circumstances of life blow back and forth between luxury and adversity, from plenty and poverty, and from health to decline. We can’t count on always having the “happy” bits of life and they are a poor foundation for when trouble comes. Do you notice that the assemblages of still life are always on something? They’re never suspended in mid-air. There’s a foundation for all those objects – usually a table, a bench, the floor. The objects themselves aren’t what we base our life on. They help decorate the scene but everything rests on the table, even the unsavory bits. Just in our lives too, the circumstances (good or bad) aren’t the foundation of our lives. They help tell the story, but everything rests on the foundation of God’s promises. God promises us His presence, His peace, His victory in every circumstance of life. And at Christmas as we remember the fulfillment of His promise to come to us, may we also find joy in the coming promise that we will be with Him. Though the beauties of this world may be fleeting, the beauty and joy of His presence never fades.
Blessings to you,