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Still Life Artistry

By Craig Mattson

I remember one day when our daughter Emma pulled a pear out of our countertop fruit bowl, held it up with a whimsical smile, and said, “This looks like it belongs in a still life.”  You know what she’s referring to—those eighteenth-century paintings of fruit in a bowl or bread on a cutting board or a jug of milk in the morning sun. Such art enfolds not just stillness, but eternity in a moment.


But Emma and I, with characteristic irreverence, immediately started to dream up still life works by some French painter with a blonde moustache and an azure beret:


Pear with Ritz Crackers and Can Opener


Dish Soap with Sodden Rag and Pear


Pear with Jelly-Stained Grocery List and Chip Crumbs


Do these titles sound like museum-bound pieces of art to you? Maybe not. But with some curating, such pics might be Instagrammable.


Contemporary sociologists note today that digital media makes us feel like performers and audiences all the time. It’s not just pears on the kitchen counter, but almost every part of our ordinary experience that’s vulnerable to being captured on somebody’s phone camera. These perpetually imminent takes can feel flattering, because we can’t help loving our lives enough to want them liked in someone’s feed. But the pic always about to be Snapped and Chatted can also be disconcerting. Most of the time our lives are not ready for an unfiltered take, and most pics miss most of who we are.

The forty-plus days leading up to Eastertide offer us a chance to submit to a different sort of take of our lives. This season takes a long time to culminate—especially this year, as we wait all the way till April 21—and what we see of ourselves during these weeks isn’t always flattering, especially if you’ve chosen to abstain from some delectable that proves irresistible. But as Lent slows down the shutter speed of our lives, we also find another and more encouraging truth. This season does not reduce us to being either the performer or the audience. During this quiet season of the year, we’re more like the subjects of God’s still life artistry.  We are the fruit of Christ’s work, suspended in a warm light, held at a loving angle, captured on a canvas entitled Eternal Life.  

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