More Still Wives

Kristin Krimmel Photo, Still wife – butter (all images in this post are copyrighted)

In the late ‘Seventies, I was at the Ecole de Beaux Arts de Reims. After the first year of study, I knew I had to continue on. I’m a slow learner. I just hadn’t gotten it yet.  In the second year, things were beginning to click into place. I realized that the artist made the object beautiful.

Sometimes one started with a beautiful object – it made a person drop their jaw in awe at the beauty contained in that object. More often than not, though, I realized that it was how it was drawn or painted or sculpted that lifted ordinary objects out of context and into a realm of beauty. An artist could paint a scruffy old workboot that was really ugly in itself, but with the magic of excellent drawing techniques and the vision of the artist, a beautiful image could be created that made the boots beautiful – or rather, made the image of the boots beautiful.

A rather talented Japanese artist in our atelier at the Ecole often made scathing comments to the first year students in painting. These comments crushed the poor struggling artists, leaving them awash in self doubts as to their suitability for the world of art.

Joji attacked my work one day, saying that women should never be painters since all they ever painted was sickly sweet landscapes and flowers. Of course I was offended. I went home, steam coming out of both ears. How could he dismiss all women painters in one swell foop like that? My fury lasted a few days.

He had done me a favour. I had to think through why I was painting. It wasn’t good enough to go through life painting any object placed before me onto canvas –  a ritual of copying what was over here onto a canvas over there. There had to be some reason for doing it. Painting one more artificially composed still life, time after time, had no real meaning to it.

Oh yes, if a gallery really liked your vase of flowers and wanted six more, then perhaps you could paint those six and keep on going with variations on the theme, until you had done hundreds of them. But what was it all for? The repetition might improve one’s techniques, but eventually the subject and the art would reflect the ennui that resulted. Boring.

And so I asked myself the question – What were women supposed to paint, if these other subjects were offensive? Then I rememberd an adage that had been taught to us in Creative Writing many years back. Write about what you know.

What did women know that men didn’t – laundry, household domestic chores, ironing, dish washing…. these were traditionally women’s tasks. I began looking for beauty in common household tasks. After all, it was how you painted it that made it beautiful.

I began by making drawings of clothes pegs, measuring them to get the proportion right, making visual jokes with them, painting them or drawing them in various different styles. When I had run out of ideas on the clothes pegs which I aptly called “My hang-ups”, I started on ironing equipment. These I called “Still Wives” since, having polled my female acquaintances, I found women were still the prime ironers and launderers in their homes.

I still look for ordinary items to make into art work. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sayeth ancient wisdom; and I’ve cnosen to see beauty in the common items that we use from day to day as a reason for my imagery.

In Art Missionary mode, I would say that I want the viewer to become aware of their immediate surroundings and to appreciate the visual beauty that there is in the so-called ordinary object. I can’t go art preaching all the time; and I’m not always there when someone views my art work. I have to depend on the work to resonate with the viewer.

In the following photo, I really like the composition here, created by the two towers of spice – salt and pepper shakers – with their shadows coming towards us. For me, it’s as interesting as a landscape with a reflection in water. Each shaker casts a shadow, repeating the shape of it, but not so symmetrically as to become boring.  The light casts other shadows that allow the eye to travel freely in the image. There is pattern both in the glass lid and on the table cloth. For me, it’s a meditative image, with yin and yang, balance and imbalance, shapes with pattern and those with no pattern; the light and the dark.

Photo by Kristin Krimmel – Salt and Pepper shaker

It’s late. More tomorrow, hopefully,


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2 Responses to “More Still Wives”

  1. forestrat Says:

    The photo of the salt and pepper shakers put me in mind of a photo by Steichen that I saw at the George Eastman house a couple of days ago. It’s titled Douglass Lighters. You can see it here:


  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    The Steichen photo is stunning. Thanks for adding it to the mix.

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