Natura Morta (Joshua Tree), archival inkjet prints, 23’’x16,” 2021
Natura Morta is the Italian term for Still Life but literally means “Dead Nature”. The fruits, vegetables or flowers depicted in photographs or paintings are frozen in time and thus seemingly preserved but the organic matter within is essentially dying. COVID 19 has enforced closure or (ar)rest with chain effects still to be unpacked. This series of photographs mimics classical still life arrangements, but the fruit is coated with a thin layer of Hydrocal plaster. The image loses its lush life while the hydrocal functions as a mask hiding the decay and rot developing underneath.
Natura Morta / Dead Nature (Pitcher, Bottle, Lemon Bowl, Fruit Bowl, Pairs), archival inkjet prints, 23’’x16,” 2021
NATURA MORTA (FRUIT WAX), 2022
Once a piece of fruit leaves the orchard, it is cleaned then sprayed with a commercial coating – made of sugar cane, beeswax, carnauba, and resins – to give it the desired retail produce glow. Interesting to note that nuts, candies, meat, fish, cheese, and cereals receive a similar treatment. The 17th-century Dutch still-life oil paintings were created during the Dutch Golden Age, marking a new state in global commerce, and the ability to have everything at once and with abundance. Of course, spices from India, porcelain from China, and exotic fruits from the Mediterranean were privileges saved for the wealthy and were fostered by colonialism and brutal exploitation.
Today, the ability to acquire anything, without consideration of seasons, cheaply and almost instantly (Amazon’s promises of a 2-day delivery set new extreme standards) leads to horrifying rates of consumption and waste, coupled with exploitation of weaker countries and catastrophic ecological footprint. Many scientists believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is a stage in a process, a logical consequence of the degradation and depletion of nature. COVID-19’s trademark symptom is the loss of taste and smell. In this photograph, staged to resemble a Dutch still life painting the consumables are covered by a thick layer of bee wax, which now no longer serves to preserve the produce but creates a barrier to the smell, taste, and desirable looks. So what does all this splendor and abundance give if we can’t enjoy it?