Saturday, April 21, 2018


Ephemeral is to be lasting for a very short time, to be momentary, or brief. Every human has had an experience that was short-lived. The unexplainable, weird feeling you get after a first kiss or the terrible hurt and ache you feel after the loss of a loved one, both stem from the passing of time. Both actions happened quickly and were over, leaving a strange sensation for the affected person. Do you wish for more of the momentary or is just that little bit you experienced too much for you already?  Our bodily experiences make ephemerality a relatable subject. This show is a collection of works, ranging from the 17th to 21st century. The fact that artists from the early 1600's share similar emotions on the transience of life is quite fascinating. How this emotion is portrayed has changed a bit over the years. A shift from a still life oil painting to installations of living flowers behind glass, provides an interesting variety of artwork that attempts to convey the same message.
This show invites the viewer to resurface the feelings they have experienced due to a brief, passing moment of life, and connect with the artist through a shared understanding of the momentary. Can art from different time periods, mediums, and artists portray the ephemerality of life? You be the judge.

Soap Bubbles
Jean Siméon Chardin
Oil on canvas
24" x 24 7/8"
MET: 49.24
Soap Bubbles is a piece from Chardin's collection of genre paintings. He paints a scene that could be a part of everyday life, two young boys looking over a stone ledge, blowing bubbles with a straw. He uses a dark atmosphere and the bubble to hint at the fate of the young boys. Bubbles are temporary things. They are blown up and they pop shortly after. Chardin is making a comment about the young boys lives. While the boys are present in this painting, they are not eternal. They share the same fate with the bubble.

Lick and Lather
Janine Antoni
Chocolate and Soap
 Head I: 24" x 13", Head II: 16" x 13"
MET: no ascension
These two busts, constructed in a classical style, represent the self portrait of Janine Antoni. Antoni however molds these busts out of chocolate and soap. The use of these mediums creates a familiarity with the objects and provides another way of viewing classical sculpture. The artist licked the chocolate sculpture and bathed with the soap bust. By doing this, the portraits were altered and decayed, commenting on the fragility of life. This is unsettling as it takes the viewer to an alternate place; moving thoughts from a classical bust, to a social commentary the life is ephemeral.

A Basket of Flowers
Jan Brueghel the Younger
c. 1620
Oil on wood
18 ½" x 26 7/8"
MET: 61.787.58
Flowers are beautiful pieces of creation, they are also fragile pieces of creation. This still life depicts an arrangement of colorful flowers, and if you look closely insects crawling among the display. From experience we can assume the fate of this still life. Flowers are perishable, as seen by the fallen flowers on the table. This painting is roped into the category of vanitas painting. While this painting is frozen in time, Jan Brueghel the Younger foreshadows the death and decay of the bouquet. This is compared with human life. While it is beautiful, it is only momentary.

The Silver Tureen
Jean Siméon Chardin
Ca. 1728-30
Oil on canvas
30" x 42 ½"
MET: 59.9
Chardin creates a naturalistic still life painting with an odd mixture of elements. He mixes animals with fruit with kitchen utensils. The dark atmosphere of the painting and the seemingly odd combination of elements makes for an uneasy composition. We relate to the cat who is peering up at the dead animals, as if we are uncertain what is going on or what is going to happen next. Also, the central focus of the composition is the dead animals. The objects that display life in this painting are scattered around the table. The apples are rolling around and the cat has been cropped. This plays along with a theme that is common to Chardin, the evanescence of life.

Preserve 'Beauty'
Anya Gallaccio
2000 gerberas, glass, metal, and rubber
2600 x 5350 x 25 mm
Museum of Installation: P7871
Gallaccio uses 2000 gerberas and presses them up against the wall just enough so they will stay in place. The red flowers are all facing forward through the glass, with the stems pointing down, creating a fringe at the bottom edge. This installation demands a response from its viewer. Depending on the time in which you view it, you may get to see fresh flowers and enjoy their smells, or, on the other hand, you may come across dead, decaying flowers and see many of them on the floor. The fact that this piece is done with fresh flowers allows the audience to be a part of the decay that is going to take place. We do not just have to think of what is going to happen, we wait and watch it happen in front of our own eyes.

Voluptas Mors
Salvador Dali and Phillippe Halsman
Silver Print
11" x 8 ½"
No ascension
Halsman and Dali arrange seven nude females, to depict an image of a skull. The photograph shows Dali on the left side of the piece with the women in the background. The fact that a skull was made of humans is a little disconcerting. A Skull is a symbol of death, humans do not like to think about the tragedy of death. Dali may be hinting at something with this piece and the construction of a skull from nude female models. Life is precious and beautiful, but death is inevitable.

No comments:

Post a Comment