June 15, 2022

The Red Still Life

I posted a recipe for Four of Quiche recently, with a photograph of, as one one would expect, four beautifully baked quiches. There’s also four knobs on the stove, beautifully aligned. The quiches are subtle shades of ocher curry, yellow turmeric, burnt paprika and dusted cumin, atop a bland cook top with a speckled black counter top. On one side you can see part of an enamel green kettle, which I know longer have, but was part of a set with a turquoise kettle, Two of Kettles, that’s another story. There is also a rather sad looking pot holder, not sure just yet if it needs washing or replacing.

Dominating the scene is a still life. A red still life The infamous Red Still Life in Mr. Bartman's senior year art class at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Maryland, 1985. We started the first semester with a white still life. I remember a candlestick, a set of goggles not much else. We played with shadows and light, complements and contrasts, created psychedelic paintings fit for a tea part with Alice from Wonderland. The year went on, and right after Christmas break we discovered just how devious Mr. B was in his set up.

There were bright red, rooster red, cast iron camping red. Shiny objects, cherry. A proud water jug, crowing coffee pot, vermilion soup bowl, crimson funnel, versatile lid - all with a gleaming white enamel interior and a severe black rim. Two mottled apples and a purple onion. Along with highly polished steel, both the pestle and mortar and the meat grinder, which reflected in more ways than one our thoughts as high-schoolers in the eighties. We had two months to complete this painting before the annual student art fair, let alone graduation. Day after day, tube after tube of Liqitex’s Naphthol Crimson acrylic paint splooged onto a random magazine page that will be ripped off for tomorrow's palette, we learn how to make a layer upon layer upon layer. How to contrast the saturated red with a soft, complementary background made of soothing dark greens, and what happened to apples as they turned to mush over two months, as well as the fact that the onion sprouted and then grew every day.

I found this painting in my parents house when they decided to move from Seaside to Santa Barbara, about five years ago. It was with a bunch of other paintings from my high school. Purple Tony, a sad looking merry-go-round, the back of a VW bug. I gave away all the paintings to Project Purr figuring someone would just paint over the canvases and use it for their own art. This one I kept because it was a good reminder of how many layers it takes sometimes to complete a particular vision.