Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Vanitas Painting or the Transicence of Earthly Pleasures

Dolphin Skull, Tropical Flowers, Fruit and a Broken Mayan Artifact
12 x 9
Judy Vars
Oil Painting on Paper
Created December 21st 2012
Recently I learned of a fascinating genre of painting still life known as Vanitas.  I have created this type of art before,  I just did not know it had its own genre until now.  This type of painting flourished in the Netherlands around 1612-1656. These paintings contain an elaborate pictorial message, which contains moral undertones, such as relinquish earthly pleasures and pursue a meaningful spiritual life. Usually contained in a vanitas painting are skulls, books, clocks, shells, birds and other symbloism. The meaning is obviously the impermanence of life, flowers and fruit all in a state of dying or decay.
My vanitas painting was created at Dolphin Quest retreat in Costa Rica where I had access to real ancient Mayan Artifacts - monkey skulls, dolphin skulls, turtle skulls, and even Cayman skulls. I was fortunate enough to borrow these objects to create a still life or “VANITAS”.  The dolphin skull reminds us of our precious wildlife, reminding us to care for and protect these magnificent creatures. The tropical flowers  have a short but beautiful life bringing us so much joy. The ancient artifacts from the Mayan civilization remind us of our mortality and ruin.  My vanitas painting contains all these elements.. 

In the jungle rain forest there is a staggering abundance of life and nature. While living in the jungle it was apparent that everything is in a constant state of birth, death and decay, and all this going on at a amazingly fast rate. I learned not be too attached to things.  My computer filled with thousands of tiny ants which seemed to enjoy the electrical buzz.  Bugs seem to like me more than other people. WHY!!!!  Because I am so sweet, the tiny vampires want to devour my flesh even before I’m dead.  It became apparent that life keeps going on and we travel through this world, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, and we are all in a process of letting go,  which is part of our existence.  
Vanitas paintings have gone out of style, I think because most people do not like to be reminded of our mortality.  As an artist I believe it is my obligation to ask you to look and understand that life is transient and never stops life-ing.  So nurture your spiritual life, pass through this life and try not to harm other beings, and honor this awesome world which we live in. 

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2
- Skulls
- Bones
- Flickering Candles
- Soap Bubbles
- Smoke
- pipes
- Certain flowers
- Certain fruit
- Certain vegetables
- Some plants
- Red wine
- Bread
- Tattered Books
- Maps
- Jewelry
- Broken Pots and Crockery
- Shells
- Certain insects & animals
- Time pieces
- The Hour Glass
- Sun Dials
- Musical Instruments
- Weapons
- Cards, dice, and other games of chance
- & more