Sinkside Compost Series - Influences

My series of Sinkside Compost Paintings are influenced by three genres and styles in art history. The first is Dutch Vanitas paintings of the 17th Century. Vanitas paintings are a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. They often had death imagery, such as skulls and rotting fruit, next to images of wealth or items that were sensory, such as musical instruments. The food I eat protects me from death, yet the scraps I leave behind, here, express the very act of dying: breaking down into elemental parts and leaving behind the purpose generated by its wholeness. 

Vanitas painting by Edwaert Collier

The second influence on the Sinkside Compost Series are the great Midwest American painters of the 20th Century, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. It was in the Mid-20th Century that agricultural advances made food abundant in the United States. These advances are what led to the abundance of food in my refrigerator that led to all of my food-oriented art. Hart Benton and Wood captured a culture and lives that were being changed by the transition from sustainable small farming to the large corporate industrial farm system of today.  The compositions of their paintings set fields and buildings to angle into the distance, highlighting the vast abundant land of the Midwest. Simultaneously, there compositions would also contain and organize human activity in a small area of this vastness. I try to express the same sense with my food-scrap container by composing it's relationship with the sink and the counter so that it seems to sit in a small area of a larger space. The human activity, the observance of my diet, is organized and contained, quite literally, in the container on the counter.

Thomas Hart Benton, Spring on the Missouri

Grant Wood, Illustration from Farm on a Hill

The final influence was the outlining of objects as seen in Modernist European art from the late 19th Century up and through the two World Wars. With the advent of America becoming the Modern art center of the world in the early to Mid-20th Century, at the time of these agricultural advances, I felt it necessary to include a technique that, to me, says Modern. That is the outline of objects. Below you can see it in a Gauguin painting, but everyone from Van Gogh to Latrec to Picasso used line. This was a Modernist way to move away from realistic representation and to highlight the elements that make a painting.

Paul Gauguin, Self-portrait with portrait of Bernard, ‘Les Misérables'

Below is the complete SInkside Compost Series. See if you can recognize these influences.


Sinkside Compost 2                                                                        Sinkside Compost 3


Sinkside Compost Series 4                                                              Sinkside Compost Series 5


Sinkside Compost Series 6                                                               Sinkside Compost Series 7


Sinkside Compost Series 8                                                                Sinkside Compost Series 9


Sinkside Compost Series 10                                     Sinkside Compost Series 11


Sinkside Compost Series 12                                                             Sinkside Compost Series 13


Sinkside Compost Series 14                                                             Sinkside Compost Series 15



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For Paintings: Many of the still lifes of food are painted on cradled wood panels. The landscapes and all other paintings are painted on stretcheded 10 duck canvas. I make my own stretchers and wood panels in a wood shop attached to my studio. The wood substrate is made of pine or poplar and is cross-grained to prevent warping. The canvas and panels each receive three layers of gesso before being painted. After completion, each painting receives a protective varnish. The canvases, generally, have the images wrapped around the sides. I make my own canvases and panels to assure that, if framed and displayed properly, my paintings will last for generations.


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Peanuts and Peanuts, oil on canvas