Artist Spotlight: Michael Petry
BY Christopher Harrity
March 17 2012 1:00 AM ET
Nature Morte (still life) paintings can be found all the way back to Egyptian tombs and Greek dwellings. Artists strove to reproduce flora and fauna as realistically as possible, and the attempt to fool the eye (trompe l’oeil) was known as mimesis. These images did not imply a morality to mortality, until Christianity took hold. Jan van Eyck made more realistic paintings due to technical advances, which spoke a religious language, while Leonardo da Vinci studied everyday objects of nature for scientific purposes. Since the earliest Christian depictions, flowers held religious meaning, and the Victorians made floral language into an art, where each flower spoke loudly.
My Nature Mortes, made from colored blown glass and cut flowers, include the fourth dimension of time. Paintings of still lives attempted to bring time into them by depicting decay (rotting fruits, meat) and the mortality of the viewer (skulls). Here, the cut flowers slowly lose their bloom, and the glass containers cannot be shown without flowers in them.They are not vases. Each vessel speaks a coded language based on its color (reflecting the 1970s gay hankie code, e.g. red for fisting, purple for spanking) and the Victorian language of flowers (e.g. red roses for true love, hyacinth for forgiveness). Each glass receptacle is unique, as it is also a portrait of someone’s anus. I invited men and women on the internet to send an image of their sphincter for the basis of a portrait, as it is one sexual part of our bodies that we cannot easily visualize, and whose visage is similar for men and women. These works appear as simple floral arrangements in pretty vases but are also sexually explicit portraits that continually change. — Michael Petry