Contemporary Vanitas

Back to thoughts

What does “Contemporary Vanitas” mean?

As a visual artist I have taken it upon myself to be responsible for communicating messages to a broad audience without using any words at all, except for these words of course! But, to have something to say, something meaningful, and to say it thru relatable and believable imagery. I have worked in many themes across the years, many of which are constantly ongoing and revisited. Themes such as, Civil and Equal Rights, Portraiture, and my most frequently revisited theme, Life and Death. I can’t help but to express this complicated yet simple relationship. We are all alive, knowing this life could be taken from us at any given second. Personally, feeling plagued by this stark reality, I can’t help but see the coexistence of life and death everywhere around me. A new flower blossoming surrounded by old flowers wilting, burnt matches left amongst a pack of live matches, cracked eggs in a box of fresh eggs, etc. etc. However, it is not a feeling of fear that comes with these constant reminders. If your constantly reminded of ones inevitable end how can one feel anything but appreciation. Appreciation for another day. Appreciation and motivation to pursue anything at all. It is my driving force. My inspiration.

On top of all this I find it so exceptionally interesting and full circle that Life and Death can come from the exact same origins. You plant a seed in the ground and wait for it to bloom to life. And when life ends, death often times begins……. you guessed it, in the ground. Life is not to be lived ignoring death because its “depressing” or a downer. Life does not exist without Death. If one lives life avoiding that the end can happen than where does the inspiration to get moving come from?

I recently discovered there is a precise term for this way of thinking and influence in artwork dating back to the 17th Century entitled “Vanitas”

  1. a still-life painting of a 17th-century Dutch genre containing symbols of death or change as a reminder of their inevitability.

Learning about this was like meeting a long lost sibling by chance! It comforted me to know that people from many generations back were plagued with this same realization. We would probably be friends if I was alive in the 17th century and that is for some reason comforting to know. I am very excited to be able to continue this art movement in present day with modern day objects. A revived art movement I am calling “Contemporary Vanitas”.