"Still Life"

The paintings and ceramics in "Still Life" focus on still life in two senses: First, the traditional art idea of capturing interior forms in a moment of time and second, celebrating the ongoing pulse of life in its turmoil and uncertainty. The content of the paintings, ceramics, and still life arrangements reflects both the stillness and the disturbing contradictions of a locked-down society.


Last year the world almost closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The slowness brought isolation. The isolation brought anxiety. My studio allowed a peaceful refuge. Working with clay was the perfect activity for quiet and unencumbered process. I began making small vessels. I left most of them unglazed. The finished pieces reflected my desire for simplicity.

Small white pots were scattered around the studio, balanced on tables, pushed against other objects. I started painting these accidental still life arrangements using oil on canvas. I painted from various angles, shrinking and enlarging. Shadows became objects, objects morphed into shapes. I was very aware of details that may have gone unnoticed in more hectic times. I moved away from what I was seeing, taking the objects, the forms, the colors, and using them to convey the contrast between calm and tension. The compositions reflected both the quiet of objects stopped in time and the unease of objects in flux.

The paintings led me back to clay, where now I worked on larger forms. I put the finished ceramic work into still life groupings arranged on fiber mats. I made the mats of flax and other fibers (dryer lint being a surprising favorite). The arranged objects on the fiber mats are like the three-dimensional arrangements from which the still life comes, linking the ceramics to the paintings and to the multiple meanings of still life.

The paintings, the ceramics, and the still life arrangements reflect both the quiet and isolation of the year and the ongoing pulse of life that has survived the period of loss.

—Elizabeth Strasser