Still Life Transforms at Danforth
by J. Fatima Martins
Danforth Museum of Art curator Jessica Roscio is disrupting the stillness of the popular and bucolic still-life arrangement. While studying the form, she noticed, “variations on the definition” of the genre, the most exciting element being the condition of flux.
Roscio has designed another clever multi-component exhibition with a complicated theme: “Beautiful Decay,” a statement show featuring objects from Danforth’s permanent collection and three separate yet connected solo installations by invited contemporary artists, each offering a different process and aesthetic: Sarah Meyers Brent, abstracted assemblage and painting using readymade and organic material; Steve Duede, photographs of decomposing flowers and fruit; and David Weinberg, precise and exquisite still-life hyper-realism.
The idea of being in the process of transformation is obvious within “Beautiful Decay,” but a more mysterious
and seemly impossible question hovers over the exhibition: why and when is decay, decomposition, messiness and ugliness deemed beautiful?
To answer the question, we must define “beautiful,” which is universally subjective. What is steadfast
within “beautiful” is the condition of power and the sublime. Roscio explained it this way: “The unsettled aspect of the works on view is what makes them beautiful and difficult to look away from.” Moreover, the condition of being “unstill” is attractive because it inherently contains risk, impermanence, hope of resolution, and the possibility of reward and rest.