SPICE STILL LIFES
AT FIRST GLANCE, many of these works seem to be traditional still lifes of fruits and vegetables. Others place the subject front-and-center in another timeless genre, the portrait.
Yet look closely as these subjects reveal unique textures and details, their hidden beauty. Here are the spices languishing in our cupboards and pantries, enlarged as much as 40 times.
Presenting these tiny berries, buds and stamens at that scale is a tribute to their power, so out of proportion to their size. Borrowing time-worn and familiar formats enables these greatly-enlarged spices to hold their secrets just a moment longer.
SPECIES AND HERBS HAVE A STORIED ROLE in the history of humankind. Spices delighted taste-buds and healed the sick; they bound our ancestors to the gods and lured men into dangerous oceans... at the same time inspiring avarice, thievery, intrigue, murder.
For countless centuries, spices have been the prerogative of the wealthiest few. Yet today spices are so commonplace that they sit on our shelves, turning stale and rancid.
Allow these works to recreate in you – if just for an instant – a touch of the awe and mystery with which spices and herbs were viewed in ages past.
THE BIG FOUR
THE HEART OF THE SPICE TRADE: Nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and clove. Over centuries their importance was measured in fortunes made and lives sacrificed in bloody trade wars. They inspired advances in technology and led to circumnavigation of the globe and ‘discovery’ of a continent.
The drama encompassed Arab traders, Roman citizens, Venetian merchants, the Dutch East India Company, Columbus, Magellan, Pierre Pouvre (Peter Piper); the settings spanned the globe from Banda Island in Indonesia to Manhattan Island in North America.
In days past these spices were prescribed to balance our humours; today their legendary powers lie captive within bottles on supermarket shelves.
Clockwise from top left:
Nutmeg x 13, Myristica fragrans
Cinnamon and Cassia x 10, Cinnamomum zeylanicus,
Clove x 39, Eugenia caryophyllus
Pepper x 42, Piper nigrum
Watercolor on paper 12” x 12”