Extraordinary Still Life: NJCU Visual Arts Gallery


Lisa Ficarelli Halpern’s Still Life With Flowers And Shells After Van Der Ast. Photo courtesy of Ficarelli Halpern.

Nicholas Felix

“Still life art flourished in the 17th Dutch renaissance era, it can commemorate life and death among other events,” said Midori Yoshimoto, gallery director and Art History professor. “For example, Margaret Murphy paintings (Women of Change and Black Lives Matter) are homages to the women who have changed our world and the innocent black lives lost.”

This exhibit (Visual Arts Gallery) showcases new interpretations of the classic art style established in the Northern Renaissance, referring to paintings of inanimate objects arranged in specific positions put together on a flat surface. Still life has been considered below the religious & historical genres of paintings, portraits, and landscapes in the artistic profession but never became obsolete, it was later revived in the twentieth century.

The Extraordinary Still Life exhibition has art from 10 talented artists; Nakeya Brown, Mia Brownell, Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern, Takashi Horisaki, Phaan Howng, Ashley Lyon, Margaret Murphy, Lina Puerta, Laurie Riccadonna, Jeremiah Teipen.

The exhibit (September 9 – October 20) will present artists’ examinations and unique takes on Still Life, challenging the genre with modern techniques and utilizing contemporary subjects.

Mia Brownell’s “Sparkling.” Photo courtesy of Brownell.

The first artwork that caught my attention was by Artist Mia Brownell and her series “Plate to Platelet.” Brownell said it is this ultimate merger between your body and nature, taking a biological closer look into the food we eat. It’s a scientific adventure into a dish, based on DNA” (seen in her piece).

Brownell’s unique take on Still Life incorporates inspiration from molecular biology structures. Brownell paintings shows the audience how so much bioengineering in our food may no longer build or repair our bodies because of its excessive artificial makeup.

For anybody with a passion or interest in fantastic visuals, social issues, and self-awareness, exhibitions like Extraordinary Still showcase such sights and spectacles of these thoughts and emotions.

Artist Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern, Piece: Still Life with Shells and Flowers After Van Der Ast, “My Still Life paintings reflect objects we consider important in contemporary times while referencing back to art-historical paintings. I enjoy the playfulness of time that can be achieved with Still life, the levels of object (real v. man-made) that can be described within the paintings, considering the painting as a collectible object.”

These art pieces hold sentimental memories and strong emotions created in tangible form by each artist, each one has a story they want to share with the world and inspire for generations.

Ashley Lyon, a ceramics artist and NJCU professor, also created a second piece of intertwined clay ropes “Mother & Child,” which is the title of her piece. This represents human relationships and emotional states such as a bond between mother and child. Her Still Life piece shows how this art genre serves as a powerful emotional vehicle.

Ashley Lyon’s ceramic “Wellspring.” Photo courtesy of Lyon.

“From mundane to art, still life is an emotional journey” Artist & NJCU Professor Ashley Lyon, Her Piece “Wellspring” is based on a family heirloom this piece was visually striking and deceptively fun. You will almost be convinced it’s a real quilt when it’s really a meticulously crafted fired clay with mixed surfacing.

Takashi Horisaki created an installation, #InstaBonsai Banpaku Remix, “consisting of sculptural and photographic works. His hybrid bonsai collection was developed from years of research on bonsai culture that spans 600 years throughout Japan.

This installation is a contemporary digital take on traditional art that considers the social and political impacts through history such as now. Horisaki’s installation was adapted and expanded due to the covid pandemic, sharing his art with the world in a bright new way.

At the Extraordinary Still Life Exhibition, you will not only be drawn to a specific work but also learn something valuable from the research, detail, and energy they inject into their artistic creations.

Despite the school’s financial difficulties, the art gallery programs are going strong. Over at the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery in Hepburn Hall, there is currently an installation “The Artist’s Way” by Andrew Demirjian & James Proctor (September 22 – October 20).

Takashi Horisaki’s “Insta Bonsai.” Photo courtesy of Horisaki.
Phaan Howng “I’ll Be Back” installation. Photo courtesy of Hwong.