Below are descriptions and side by side comparisons of my works and the existing still life masterpieces I was inspired by.
Audrey Flack is a pioneer in photorealism. She paints meticulous still lifes based on her own photographs, often in an illusionistic style that allude to the fleeting nature of material things and perhaps to an extent, life itself. Flack made her mark when modern feminism was on the upswing and she began incorporating perfume bottles and makeup items as a way to question conventional ideas about femininity and beauty. This piece was inspired by Flack's Chanel and Jolie Madame, with items drawn from random things my mom had around the house.
Coincidentally, Flack developed a method of applying paint in layers with an airbrush to achieve a photorealistic effect, which is also a Procreate brush feature I used heavily in this piece.
Judy Chicago's Dinner Party was an installation that refers to both tradition of still life paintings and more importantly to the historical marginalization of women. The 39 place settings include a unique hand-painted china plate based on vulvar and butterfly form, but Chicago got criticism for primarily showcasing western women.
Chicago’s Sappho plate was named after a prolific Green poet who innovated the form of poetry through her first-person narration (instead of writing from the vantage point of the gods) and use of lyric meter. She headed a thiasos, an academy of unmarried women and was skilled in music and dance and enjoyed intertwining these art forms during performances. She was a major force in Greek culture and its enduring legacy and her name (and the island of Lesbos, where she was from) gave birth to the terms lesbian and sapphic.
The durian plate was made as an homage to the "Queen of Fruits". It's native to Southeast Asia and is notorious for its rancid smell, but sweet taste. If I were to have this plate for a legendary woman, I'd choose Malaysian actress and badass, Michelle Yeoh.
Arguably Van Gogh's most popular works. He moved to Arles in the south of France in hopes of creating an art community with Gaugin as its mentor. Van Gogh enjoyed painting these flowers (some were gifts for Gaugin) and wrote that they represented gratitude for him. He was able to create such intense vibrancy with the yellows through newly manufactured pigments like chrome yellow. He layered on the paint as a way to express emotion, and with the yellow - it was meant to convey a strong feeling of happiness, with the various flower shapes representing different phases of life.
I chose to recreate this work because of the yellow. The color carried a negative, and at times, comical connotation with Asian people. But over time, as I've explored my racial identity through art, embracing my yellow-ness helped me out of existential stupor I didn't even know I was in. Now all I want to do is paint the town yellow. I've been a part of the growing Asian American creative community in New York and those connections have given me energy to continue making the work that I do.
The flowers include orchids, plumerias, marigolds, lotus flowers, and cherry blossoms - all of which are used in various Asian cultures to symbolize different emotions and stages in life.
Lichtenstein experimented with different styles in his later works, including still lifes. He used optical tricks to have viewers debate reality as his works were “not meant to have the usual still life meaning”. He added fruits as a parodic homage to traditional still lifes and their fruit baskets. Still Life with Goldfish took on additional layers by incorporating his Golf Ball piece in the background, as well challenging the notions of originality by appropriating Matisse’s Goldfish from 60 years earlier.
This still life project is an exercise of appropriation in itself, with the backstory behind Lichtenstein's piece mirroring objectives I set for why I wanted to do this to begin with. I’ve included koi fish, a Korean melon, starfruit, a shuttlecock, and bamboo in this work and took a page from Lichtenstein to project levity and a bit of absurdity.
Warhol was fascinated with how everyone drank Coke. It didn’t matter what your socioeconomic status was. “ A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke."
Like Coke, Yakult's customer base ranges from the rich in developed countries to the poor in developing countries, particularly in Asia. Many of the latter customer segment learn about the benefits of probiotics through Yakult Ladies, who travel from home to home (many of whom live in the very communities they sell to), educating customers, building trust in the brand, and promoting good health. Around 80,000 women are part of this home delivery salesforce today in Asia and have been a huge part ofthe company's success in Japan.
Wesselmann was a leading American Pop artist of the 1960s (although he didn’t like that label), and unlike many of his contemporaries, he preferred a more classical representation of still lifes over abstract expressionism. He created collages of everyday objects with an advertising ephemera, choosing to depict them more for their aesthetics rather than making any kind of cultural critique.
I would argue and say that still lifes, especially with an advertising lens, is cultural commentary around consumer culture and modernism. His objects are emblematic of his time and supermarket food is quintessential American, particularly with the bright packaging.
The Asian supermarket is quintessential Asian American. We went to 99 Ranch Market all the time (with pitstops at Asian bakeries and various eateries in the Asian shopping plaza) and the food items depicted here were always in our pantry, our fridge, and/or our freezer. I never saw these items in ads on TV or in print growing up, so to this day, they are kitchen essentials rather than products companies were marketing to me.