Still Life 4: Looking at the Overlooked: Morandi inspired photographs

Still Life Chapter 4  Looking at the Overlooked
Studies IV    November  2013 
Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi

For an Introduction to the Still Life project and the links to all of its chapters visitStill Life
Click on the images once to enlarge

Introduction: Looking at the Overlooked 
I have just read Norman Bryson's book Looking at the Overlooked (1990), a brilliant collection of illustrated essays on still life painting dating back from modernism to the 1600s.  He shows in a very informed, intelligent and insightful way how still life has always been at the bottom of the cultural-historical-aesthetic hierarchy, and thus considered unworthy of the kind of superior attention reserved first of all for history painting, and then of course for portraiture.  

Still life painting, Bryson writes, is about "the life of the table, of the basic creaturely acts of eating and drinking, of the artefacts which surround the subject in her or his domestic space, of the everyday world of routine and repetition, at a level of existence where events are not at all the large-scale, momentous events of History, but the small-scale, trivial, forgettable acts of bodily survival and self-maintenance."

The things that stand still
The objects represented in still life paintings stand still: plates and cups, baskets and bowls, fruits and vegetables, breads and cheeses, vases and platters, flowers and wine glasses.  The human figure is deliberately avoided.  Writes Bryson: "While history painting is constructed around narrative, still life is the world minus its narratives or, better, the world minus its capacity for generating narrative interest.  To narrate is to name what is unique: the singular acts of individual persons . . .  The law of narrative is one of change . . .  But still life pitches itself at a level of material existence where nothing exceptional occurs . . . "  

There is a leveling of humanity in still life, says Bryson, a humbling of aspiration.   

The chapter that most interested me in Bryson's book, because it seemed so related to my photography project, is entitled Rhopography.  The word means "trivial objects, small wares, trifles," the depiction of those things which lack importance, the unassuming material base of life that 'importance' overlooks."  Bryson explores this idea in multilayered ways by comparing still life images by Juan Sanchez Cotan (1561-1620),  Francisco Zurbaran (1598-1664), Carvaggio (1573-1610), Cezanne (1839-1906) and Chardin (1699-1779).  Out of the mix comes remarkable insights into social, formal, and philosophical aspects of each work and the entire genre of still life.   Morandi openly stated his work was influenced by Cezanne and Chardin so I was all the more interested in learning what Bryson had to say about their painting.  It's a complex issue, it turns out, and of course it takes Bryson the entire book to articulate his ideas in total.  To simplify things here, I will focus on one painting by Cotan.

Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber
Cotan was living as a lay brother in the monastery of the Carthusians in Toledo, Spain at that time he made the 1602 painting Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (shown below).    

The image attracted me at first because of the way the quince and cabbage are suspended by strings in black space.  Things suspended in black space have been a recurring motif in my work over the past ten years, and there are many "hanging" images in my Morandi inspired project.  

Bryson's reading of Cotan's image is multilayered and fascinating.  To begin with, what we are seeing in Cotan's image is a representation of vegetables being kept in a monastery food storage box called a cantarero.  The food would last longer when isolated and suspended in this space; in fact the cantarero is still being used today in some parts of Spain.

Cotan, "Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber" 1602 Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego

Interestingly, Cotan, who would a year later join the monastery, renounced himself as the creator of the composition as a private act of self-negation.  He insisted that he painted only what he found (this sounds like me), only what he saw (this sounds like Morandi), thus the image was not his invention, but a representation of the "work of God."

Sacred Art 
Bryson writes of a "spiritual rationale" for the elevation of still life's depiction of mundane subjects "to a level comparable with sacred painting . . ."  He says Cotan's still life, which takes place in an absolutely real and ordinary space, the cantarero, is vital to Cotan's aim of deliberately humbling his vision in order to chasten it and shake his pride.  

Unlike Carvaggio's or Cezanne's painting, Cotan does not celebrate individual expression, but rather in its constant return to familiar things (Cotan made a series of paintings of the things he found in the storage box) his paintings become emblematic of sobriety and self-restraint.  The aim of his art (Bryson writes) was to dispel illusion and remind vision of its sacred place, it's divine powers.

All great art accomplishes some kind of transfiguration, and still life at its best ennobles and elevates the most humble and mundane everyday objects to the level of the sacred.  Bryson writes: "Since still life needs to look at the overlooked it has to bring into view objects which perception normally screens out.  The difficulty is that by bringing into consciousness and into visibility things that perception normally overlooks, the visual field can come to appear radically unfamiliar and estranged."  

This is either a problem or a blessing for Cotan's painting, depending on how one looks and thinks about it.  The intensity of Cotan's perception at work in the painting "makes for such an excess of brilliance and focus that the image and its objects seem not quite of this world."  Thus, as one writer cited by Bryson commented, the objects depicted in the painting "belonged less to the cocoon of nearness than to a kind of erie outer space.  The quince and the cabbage 'turn and glow like planets in boundless night.' "

Bryson goes further into his reading of Cotan's image: he even proposes there is an equation between spiritual worth and the refusal of food, and in doing so ends up in "the purity of the body's internal spaces" where it is a "dark void."  He wonders if this may be one of the metaphorical connotations of the cantarero's black space lurking behind the quince, cabbage, melon and cucumber.  

I have used black space in earlier works Thing Centered Photographs as a way of isolating, suspending, and emphasizing the objects I was photographing so they could be seen more directly.  However for this Morandi inspired project I have decided to avoid the use of black space because I am more interested in making photographs of things found in their place.  That Bryson equates still life to sacred art was quite a wonderful surprise for me since my most recently completed project, which took over two years to complete, was a visual and textual exploration of my creative process in relationship to the phenomena of sacred art (visit "An Imaginary Book").   

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #1
Plastic spray bottle, dish rack, blue dish cloth

Perceptual Revelation
Although still life images force us to pay attention to things normally overlooked, on the other hand Bryson believes the imagery can sometimes cause a feeling of estrangement for the viewer.  But, if the artist gets it just right, and a certain sense of harmony is achieved in the image, a still life image can set off in some viewers an experience of transcendence which Bryson terms perceptual revelation.   In other words, a viewer's aesthetic response to a still life image in which the ordinary is seen as transfigured can lead to a revelation of the sacred.

"The central issue" writes Bryson, "is how to enter into the life of material reality as a full participant, rather than as a voyeur, and how to defamiliarize the look of the everyday without precisely loosing its qualities of the unexceptional and unassuming."

There is the danger of loosing the precious quality of perceptual revelation in art when the objects in the image look self-consciously presented, when the hand or the intention of the artist becomes too noticeable.  If the artist's presence is sensed by the viewer and the artifice dominates and distracts the viewer's attention from the presence of the objects in the still life image, the viewer is distracted from perceptual revelation.  Cezanne and Morandi made their self-consciously arranged compositions function on a high level of modernist aesthetic transfiguration, so clearly there are no easy rules for how the unveiling of life's mystery must take form; the best art often breaks from established conventions.

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #2
Painted rock  ("mountain man") under plant pot

The unconscious force in outwardly humble forms 
I'll conclude my brief discussion of Bryson's ideas by touching on what he has to say about the archetypal, timeless nature of the objects depicted in still lifes.  He uses the latin word aevum to try to explain how still life's objects embody a mode of existence that lies somewhere between the eternity of God and the temporal experience of material things.  Aevum is the transcendental state experienced by the angels and the saints in heaven. 

The archetypal forms we usually see in still life objects, says Bryson "are tied to actions repeated by every user in the same way, across generational time; they present the life of everyman as far more a matter of repetition than of personal originality or invention." 

Bryson goes on to say that when there is a feeling in still life images that the objects depicted have been overlooked: "in that effacement of human attention, objects reveal their own autonomy:  it is as though it is the objects that make the world, and the unconscious force stored in their outwardly humble forms. . . " 

*          *          *

Morandi's Still Life Objects
Karen Wilkin, in her 2007 Poligrafa publication on Morandi writes:  "At first glance Morandi's objects appear to be the detritus of domesticity, a collection of things once in daily use, but discarded . . .  Confronted by such subject matter it is easy to see why Morandi has been compared so often with Chardin, whose still lifes also celebrated the ordinary and the humble, the trappings of the kitchen and the pantry, presenting them without sentimentality, but with scrupulous attention to their individual formal characteristics.  

"Yet longer acquaintance with Morandi's still lifes make their artifice more apparent.  Clearly, these are studio set-ups, groupings created to be scrutinized, their plastic and visual relationships probed.  The objects that provide their nominal subject matter may carry with them the memory of use, but it may not be the memory of use within the artist's own household.  Neither are they sturdy peasant artifacts nor the decayed relics of aristocracy, but rather generic flea market finds, essentially neutral objects, the leftovers of countless working-class and middle-class households (like Morandi's own) that, until recently, were the staples of northern Italian street markets. . .  

"Many objects were brushed with flat white or grayish paint, to destroy reflections and anything accidental, as though the painter were striving to distance himself from the particulars of his circumscribed subjects in order to render them as abstract geometric archetypes.

"The dialogue - or tug of war - between the specific and the elemental lies at the heart of Morandi's work.  He seems to explore how much he can simplify before the objects and the [landscape] places he obsessively returned to throughout his long career become unrecognizable.  At other times, he backs away from generalization, insisting on particulars to the point where each bottle and vase seems as individual as portraits . . .

". . . it is clear that Morandi was deeply attached to the objects and places that were his points of departure.  It is equally clear that his retreat from the brink of abstraction to the security of reference was a deliberate choice, not a failure of nerve.  While Morandi's paintings depend on abstract relationships, he was not an abstract painter, but rather a realist wholly absorbed by his perceptions, who distilled extraordinary rarefied structures from his observations, anchoring his most extreme inventions in ordinary experience."


My Still Life Photographs & The things I photograph
First, I need to say: never trust or believe what an artist says about their own work.  We are often the last to know, especially if we are allowing ourselves to be merely a medium through which the creative process manifests what it needs to manifest.  We artists say things about our work sometimes as a test to check and see if what has been said feels true, or resonates in a way that feels revelatory.  We say what we know and yet we do not and cannot say enough because the most interesting thing about art is what is unknown.  

Morandi's work is so attractive to me I think because I have also often felt that same "tug of war" about how my photographs function, how they mean.  My still life photographs, like much of my other work, vascilate between multiple conceptual frameworks:  sometimes my photographs are about seeing things as I found them; and sometimes they are about how I see things, about pictorial invention.  In either case, however, there must be some sense of perceptual revelation in my experience of the image or I eventually discard it.   

Sometimes my photographs are about the thing itself, an intimate portrait which strives to look past appearance and directly to the center of a thing's being, what Morandi says is the essence of a thing, or what Bryson would call the archetypal consciousness of a thing.

Sometimes my photographs are about place, or about things in their place.  The concept of place is difficult to talk about; it's related to the idea of essence.  Place is a feeling generated by many things that coexist and interrelate to each other, in a physical space or within the frame of the photograph.   A sense of place is often carried by a quality of light, the space between things, ineffable qualities which are present perhaps only in a given moment. 

Sometimes my still life photographs are about purely formal relationships; in this case the objects in the image serve as abstract forms, light modulators that create a visual structure with which I have a strong feeling of empathy. 

Morandi's paintings are often about the space between things.  I'm very interested in the challenge of making photographs about the space between things, but it's very difficult; the images can look too self-consciously conceived; my gesture or intention could become too much the focus of the image which then becomes a distraction for the viewer.   

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #3
Cupboard view, two stacks of plates, and the space between

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #4
Hanging bunch of garlic bulbs

Things as I find and see them
I confess, I am not good at constructing a composition, moving things around, fixing the relationships between things, and then photographing the staged event.  I prefer finding the  things that I photograph; associated with this way of working is what Bryson termed perceptual revelation, or what the great photographer Edward Weston termed "the flame of recognition."  It's that magical moment when I am walking about the world, looking for something to photograph and . . . all of a sudden what I am looking at transfigures into a potential photographic image in my imagination.  This perceptual revelation initiates the desire or impulse to make a photograph.  It's an exciting experience, a brief moment of unveiling in which the mystery of life seems to present itself.  The experience, however, does not guarantee a successful photograph.  

Even if those moments don't always yield successful photographs, the "high" from the experience, the energy buzz from it, can keep me moving forward in my creative process and lead me to the making of the next photograph, and the next.  The creative process is a lot about being in touch with this very palpable energy that feels to be both in myself and in the things of the world.  When the inner and the outer seem to be corresponding in the imagined form of a photograph I'll make the exposure. 

Again, we only find in the world what we already have within ourselves.  Photographs, paintings, poems, etc., are at their best when they are the fruits of self revelation, when inside and outside fall into correspondence.  These "gifts" bring us what Robert Bly has termed News of the Universe 

Standing, still, in the right place
It sounds perhaps too simple, but making a photograph is often a matter of finding the right place to stand in the world.  This is a conceptual issue, but it's also about a physical alignment of myself to the things of the world.  Instead of moving a thing or several things around on a table, I like to move spontaneously in relation to things I find in the world.  If what I see feels a little off, I move my point of view in relation to the objects: a little to the left or right, above or below.  Each point of view is a different photograph.   

I sometimes move things around for my still life photographs.  It's a last effort attempt to articulate a possible photograph that isn't quite falling into place by moving myself in relation to the objects.  If I move something, though, it's got to be a matter of pure instinct.  The key here (and Morandi was a master at this, as was Chardin and other still life artists) is to move an object within a composition in the way that the natural world operates.  It's a matter intuition; it's like moving the way the wind moves a piece of straw, some feathers, or dust.  Self conscious thinking only gets in my way.  There is something like a sense of stillness, or a silent voice in my creative process that I try to pay attention to.   This subtle directive helps be act before I can think about it.  Thinking can take the life out of a potential photograph.  

The Square Format
It occurred to me that the square format I have chosen to use for my Still Life project is like Cotan's cantarero, the box in which the food items had been placed and suspended for storage.  Interestingly, I made my cupboard photographs (of plates, wine glasses, vases, etc.) after having read Bryson's book and studying Cotan's cantarero painting.  Morandi made many paintings, paintings which inspired this project, in the square format.  

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #5
Cupboard view, wine glasses and reflecting light

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #6
Cupboard view, stacks of plates and a bowl on top

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #7
Cupboard view, ceramic candle holder and white glass object

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #8
Cupboard view, blue glass bowl, little bowl, rose painted bowl

Returning repeatedly: Variations on a theme 
All the photographs in these first four chapters of the Morandi inspired project were made inside the house where my wife and I live in Canandaigua, NY.  Making photographs in my own house is a wonderful challenge: sometimes when I am looking for things to photograph, everything lights up and comes alive with picture possibilities.  It's exhilarating!  As the light changes through the day, and the seasons change, and as the artificial lights come on at night, I awaken to new picture possibilities because the light transforms everything.  

In the texts I cited above by Bryson and Wilkin, the idea of obsessive return and repetition came up several times.  Variations on a theme is a familiar way of working within any creative process.  Not only does the light change things and spaces, but the things in my house get moved, and new relationships get established.   

When I make a strong image once in a certain place or of a particular thing, I repeatedly return to that thing or place to see if yet another image is there again waiting for me to discover; a different but related image, a variation on the original theme.  

If I made a failed photograph but I know the potential is there for a successful one, I will keep going back to the thing or the place to see if the picture I had failed to make was now there waiting for me to be found.  

This compulsion to return to the site of a failed or favorite image, the place of any kind of exciting past photographic experience, can lead to a body of related work that is all the stronger for its similarities and its variational differences.  Morandi was known for his series of images on a particular compositional arrangement of his studio objects.  But each painting was different: perhaps in the way he handled the paint, or rendered the light, or changed the colors, for example.  To see a collection of these variations in context to each other can be a revelation in itself.  

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #9
Cupboard view, stack of plates, top plate with chipped edge

Variations on a theme is about seeing more deeply, persistently searching for something more.  In the image above, for example, I may have never seen the chipped plate on the top of the stack of plates if I hadn't made the other cupboard images.  The chip in the plate is the primary event in this photograph for me now, and that little detail gives breadth and depth to the series of cupboard photographs as a whole.

Until I feel like I have made enough images or a particular subject, its hard to recognize which images best help resolve the initial impulse or challenge to create the series.  In this regard all the images have played their role and offered their own different merits.  Then I have to edit to avoid overstating the case so that finally the body of work as a whole can make its most articulate statement.  In other words, sometimes it's not just one single one that makes the fullest statement but the way a collection of images work together as a visual whole.


Here is a list of some of my favorite subjects and themes that I've returned to repeatedly, keeping a watch over the possibilities of new or better images, deepening a series that is unfolding, etc.  

Cupboard views
Hanging things 
Floor and table lamps, on at night, off 
Nocturnes, pictures made at night with existing light 
The bedroom lamp with its shade tilted up
Plastic Spray Bottles
The space between things
The rocking chair
The stainless steel refrigerator door
The stainless steel round serving tray
Reflections: in mirrors, picture frames, the refrigerator door, on objects
The granite counter top
The dinning room table
The bathroom, as place, and the things in the bathroom
Bowls, Vases, Baskets, pots - with fruit, flowers, vegetables
The stainless kitchen sink
The dish draining rack
Dish rags and dish cloths
Flowers and Plants
Daylight, sunset light, artificial light 
The globe
Cloths hangers
Light switches
The compost canister
Inside the microwave
Inside cupboards
The front door
Christmas lights hanging over the front door
Garlic, cloves and bunches, sitting and hanging
Color(s) especially gold, yellow and blue 
Round things
Bird images 

*          *          *

Regarding Birds
The Roundness of Being

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #10
Nocturne: Floor lamp detail, and head of wooden bluebird 

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #11
Laundry sink and (bird like) shadows

I live my life in growing orbits,
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years.
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon,
Or a storm, or a great song.

Rainer Maria Rilke / 1899
trans. R Bly

Birds and round things belong together.  Indeed I have had a propensity for photographing round things and bird images for this project.  I savor the unity of roundness perhaps as much as Gaston Bachelard, author of the wonderful book The Poetics of Space.  He wrote:  "Because every universe is enclosed in curves, every universe is concentrated in a . . . dynamized center.  And this center is powerful, because it is an imagined center."

For Bachelard poetry is "the soul becoming form."  And being, he says, is round.  

But being is also housed: in his study of the poetics of the house he found there is ground for taking the house as a tool for analysis of the human soul: "Our soul is an abode."  When we learn to inhabit a house - or any space or object - with intimacy, with poetic imagination, "we learn to abide within ourselves."  Thus he says  images of the house "move in both directions: they are in us as much as we are in them."  

In the chapter entitled "Intimate Immensity" Bachelard says there is no greater value than intimacy.  He writes of two kinds of spaces --the space of intimacy and the space of the outer world: "It is through their 'immensity' that these two kinds of space blend . . .  The coexistence of things in a space to which we add consciousness of our own existence is a very concrete thing . . . In this co-existentialism, every object invested with intimate space becomes the center of all space." 

Investing objects and spaces with intimacy is one of the guiding principles for my Morandi still life project.  It seems to me the creation of a photograph is a form of embracing, encircling and uniting with a thing or a place; when the interior space of my being unites with it's corresponding outer-world counterpart I have made myself whole, that is to say round, like a nest, and thus have affirmed the roundness of both the soul and the world.   

Illustration from the free online copy of Jules Michelet's book "The Bird"

Every thing round invites a caress
Birds nests are round because birds are round.   Bachelard devotes a chapter to nests, and he concludes his book with a brief chapter entitled "The Phenomenology of Roundness" which is a meditation on the roundness of life and the roundness of being.

Round things have a center, and when we inhabit with concentration the center of any thing or space we experience the center of all space.  Bachelard cites the French Historian, Jules Michelet who wrote an elegant book entitled The Bird (1869) in which he writes: "The bird, almost spherical in form, is certainly the apex, divine and sublime, of living centralization. We can neither see nor imagine a higher degree of unity.  From his excess of concentration the bird derives its great personal force . . . "  

Bachelard says this round image of being in Michelet's book is all the more remarkable for the fact that it was overlooked by his peers in the literary criticism and psychoanalysis of the late 19th century; the book was considered by Michelet's peers "of no importance."   When I read this I was reminded of Bryson's comments about still life, which was overlooked because it "pitches itself at a level of material existence where nothing exceptional occurs . . . "  

The great poet Rilke sees the exceptional roundness of being in everything, including a bird-call which manifests a transfiguration in him: time stops, and in that still, silent eternal moment all the things of the world expand and take their place in the growing orbits of the immensity of being: that falcon, that storm, that great song which is the perfection, the roundness of life.  

Morandi as well invested the things of his still life world with his own concentrated perception, his own intimate and imaginative space, and thus each thing he painted - a bottle, a box, a bouquet of  flowers - like a a bird-call - became for him (and now, for the contemplative viewer) the still center of all space, the round space of being:

. . . This round bird-call
Rests in the instant that engenders it
Huge as the sky above the withered forest.
Docilely things take their place in this call
In it the entire landscape seems to rest.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #12
Two flying birds (couch cover)

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #13
Plants, window shade pull cords, corner

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #14
Green edge of  table glass, green plants, meadow view late fall

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #15
Pumpkin on coffee table with blue vase

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #16
Nocturne: Bedroom lamp (on) with tilted shade front view

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #19
Plant in ceramic pot on wire shelf

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #20
Front porch chair shadow

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #21
Fall, rose plants cut back for the winter

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #22
Nocturne: early evening, front porch christmas lights

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #23
Nocturne: Potted plant, illuminated table lamp shade 

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #24
Willow bush, shadow of neighbor's satellite dish

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #25
Dishes drying in dish rack, pan cover and plastic spatula

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #26
Small electric fan on rug

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #27
Puddle on driveway, fallen leaves and red rose petals

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #28
Round paper window shade

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #29
Floor lamp detail, and edge of gold rayed mirror 

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #30
Paper towel rolls and gold hanging wind chimes

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #31
Cat toy (ball) on floor

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #33
Front door with hanging door decoration

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #34
Nocturne: garlic bulb, ceramic vase with flowers, refrigerator

*            *            *
~ Corners ~

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #35
Nocturne:  Dried flowers hanging in corner

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #36
Nocturne:  Corner shadow

Every corner in a house
is a symbol of solitude for 
the imagination.
Gaston Bachelard
The Poetics of Space

Bachelard devotes a chapter to the secluded, intimate space of Corners which he says is "the germ of a room or a house in which we like to hide or withdraw into ourselves." 

He quotes from a novel by Milosz in which the dreamer exclaims: "The mystery of things, little sensations of time, great void of eternity!  An infinity can be contained in this stone corner, between the fireplace and the oak chest  . . .  the musty odor of the minutes of three centuries ago; the secret meaning of the hieroglyphics in fly-dung; the triumphal arch of that mouse-hole . . .  and finally, the soul of all this old dust from corners forgotten by brooms."

Morandi allowed dust to settle on his studio objects;  it muted the surfaces and softened the colors of his beloved objects.  It gave the objects a ghostly presence.  And Bachelard seems to have had Cotan's image of the cantarero in mind when he wrote: "The corner is a haven that ensures us one of the things we prize most highly - immobility.  The corner is a sort of half-box, part walls, part door.  .  .  We have to designate the space of our immobility by making it the space of our being."   

We can make a corner the space of our being by learning how to curl up in that space.  To curl up can be seen as a metaphor for looking at a thing or space with concentrated intensity.  "To curl up belongs to the phenomenology of the verb to inhabit" writes Bachelard.  Through imaginatively inhabit - with intimate intensity - the things of the world, including poems, paintings, photographs . . .  we can experience the center of all space, the space of our own being.  The writer Noel Arnaud said it this way:

"I am the space where I am."

Morandi inspired Still Life photographs, Chapter 4, Image #37
Corner,  window plant shadows, light switch, wall calendar


This project was placed on my Welcome Page November 28, 2013.
I intend to place Chapter 5 in the "Newest Additions" section
 at the top of the Welcome Page before December 25.
  Please watch for it.  Thank you.

Still Life ~ Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi  

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.

Other Related Links:

Morandi's Dust  DVD documentary, English subtitles.  Highly recommended