Shelf Life



Grimsby, Gregory

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In the late 17th century, cabinets of curiosity reflected the birth of modern science, manifested in exotic collections of artifacts, specimens, and artworks. These precursors to modern museums juxtaposed natural science and religion, even fact and fiction. These cabinets reveled in the marvelous, the rare, and often the freakish. By aggregating all this content, visitors could experience a lifetime of amazing artifacts all at once. At the time, they must have been awe-inspiring. Shelf Life, operates in a similar way. It is a series of oil paintings and drawings that curates a fascinating assemblage of things ranging from man-made antiquities to oddities of the animal kingdom. It is about amazing things and imagined beings. Some of the content depicted exists in our world, but some does not. When both are included together uncertainly is sown. This leaves the viewer questioning, and, hopefully, engaged in a mystery to decipher the truth. Objects have meaning and symbolism. Objects become signifiers for concepts. A butterfly represents spirituality. A skull represents death. Groupings of objects form relationships and evoke meaning. This is how the oil paintings in Shelf Life speak. Each painting depicts a collection of objects that tells stories. Shelf Life is a series that sees the beauty lying at the intersection of art and science. There is the natural beauty of Ellensburg’s agate with its swirls of blue and amber. There is the textural allure of old books filled with aged parchment and bound in heavy leather and bronze. Arthropods are painted in an infinite palette from the purest blues and fiery oranges, to iridescent greens. There is beauty found in old materials and old ways of making things. Mercury gasometers and the earliest lightbulbs, instruments of 19th century science, are beautiful sculptures of glass and bronze, yet still used for science. Shelf Life curates artifacts of nature and science together. Shelf Life, is about truths, especially the “almost true” and ambiguous truths. It is about imagined beings and amazing things. It is about curiosity. It is about science and how science can be beautiful, but also ignorant, even unethical. Since little ‘t’ truth is relative, a discussion of the lens of the viewer is needed. The work of entomologist/biologist Dr. Gabriel Fain offers an essential perspective on truth in science. His experiments show how authority biases our interpretation of truth. This thesis is a field guide in the Audubon sense to the paintings and drawings in my graduate show of Spring 2017. Like a beautiful watercolor vivisection, we’ll discuss in detail the process used in my realistic paintings and drawings. The interplay of digital and traditional techniques, although not revelatory, solved many visual problems such as perspective and challenging tromp l’oeil compositions with no physical reference available. Out of this process was born a series of highly detailed paintings in the still-life mode and dozens of scientific illustrations done in ink.



Art, Still life, Drawings, Paintings, Realism, Bugs