Aesthetics of Death - Installation view from the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
Oils on Plaster
6 x 10 feet
This exhibition includes a site-specific installation of two paintings and a video from the Biological Regionalism Series and three paintings from the Aesthetics of Death Series.
I began to conceptualize the Aesthetics of Death series about ten years ago when I started collecting images of dead steelhead without knowing why until two years ago when recent family deaths and serious illnesses had resensitized me to the fragility and richness of life. By the time I started the eight to ten foot paintings, I had spent countless hours researching the biological cycle of this migratory species and the history of their introduction into the Great Lakes from the west coast. With each lifeless body, I tried to estimate their age, their genetic background and the life they led over the past few years. As I looked more closely at the remains, I would search for details that would indicate what had led to their demise. I often saw these deserted or discarded bodies as metaphors for my own life. The majestic creatures had, at one time, led noble battles in their attempts to survive and prosper. They now had become silent still-lifes that were slowly being broken-down by the same elements that had once supported them. There seemed to be a sad irony and elegance to the cycle.
Along with the extensive research on steelhead, I had also been researching the angling art of Henry Inman, Thomas Doughty, Winslow Homer and Thomas Cole; the fish still life of Gustave Courbet, William Chase and Emil Carlsen; the landscape work of Martin Heade Johnson and Jose Maria Valesco, the contemporary paintings of Walton Ford and the early work of Alexis Rockman. I was intrigued by the thought of reintroducing piscatorial art back into a contemporary aesthetic dialogue while creating a venue to investigate our own mortality.