Vanitas still life paintings, most popular in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, act as reminders of life’s transience and the inevitable march toward death. Depicting symbolic imagery such as skulls, flowers, fruits, candles, and bubbles, these works remind the viewer that both body and life are impermanent and, thus, to look beyond material objects.
In the group exhibition, Vanitas, works by Ivana Bašić, Sofía Córdova, Melanie Schiff, Lui Shtini, and Sarah E. Wood turn away from representation and symbolism and toward the affective resonances of materials and forms. Their works occupy interstitial positions between life and death, nature and contamination, wakefulness and sleep, wholeness and fragmentation.
If the symbolism of the memento mori is meant to act as a reminder that superficial things are but temporary, these artists invest in the material surface as the visual field in which change most readily operates. These sites of transformation privilege the in-between, letting transience play out as they look on keenly. Ultimately, the memento mori is made a comforting, beautiful thing; a gentle reassurance that life, like death, goes on.