Interactive 17th century painting
John Baldessari’s “In Still Life” project is freaking cool. It’s an interactive online experience that allows you to rearrange 38 different objects in Abraham van Beyeren’s “Banquet Still Life,” a 17th-century Dutch painting.
“When someone completes their own still life using In Still Life 2001-2010 it becomes their own artwork,” says artist John Baldessari. “It’s not mine. It’s theirs. Still lifes are about the fleeting things in life. Each object has a symbolic meaning attached to it. My interest in still lifes goes back to beginning art courses and having to endlessly paint from them. There was always a room where the instructors stored all the props. And the one prop I hated was the cow skull, which an old instructor of mine, a Georgia O’Keeffe fan, used to always trot out. But of course the typical objects are things like the guitar, the wine bottle, the loaf of bread, which are not so interesting. Even now it’s very hard for me to look at one of those typical Braque or Picasso still lifes and not want to rearrange it! I just want to make it a little more upbeat, a little more dynamic and less static. I chose Banquet Still Life (1667) for the original In Still Life because I wanted to use a typical 17th-century Dutch still life. The lobster is the most important object in the painting. I’m just anticipating everyone trying to make the lobster dance.”