Certainly there’s ample artistic precedent for including a dead animal or two in a still-life. Old Master paintings are rife with images of freshly killed ducks, bunnies and fish awaiting a trip to the dinner table.
Photographer (and certified taxidermist) Kimberly Witham slyly subverts that tradition with “Domestic Arrangements,” a series of still-life photographs that combine modern kitchenware and other items of domestic life with birds, squirrels and other animals retrieved from the roadside. All items come from within a short radius around Witham’s New Jersey home.
Witham says in the statement accompanying the series that her aesthetic intent is to pay homage to traditional still-life painting while mimicking the look of photos in glossy design magazines. The combination makes sly reference to the ecological damage and other costs associated with the consumer lifestyle such magazines promote.
The photographs in this series question the consequences of our domestic comforts…The objects in these photos include personal possessions, flowers and vegetables from my garden, and birds and animals found by the roadside. I arrange these items into ephemeral constructions that are simultaneously whimsical and grotesque. While these images are inspired conceptually by the Vanitas tradition, formally they are more akin to contemporary home and style magazines. In the pages of these magazines, products are arranged in clinical perfection. They promise relaxation, fulfillment and simplicity if we only buy one more thing. In contrast, my arrangements highlight both the promise of suburban comfort and the aftermath of our continued consumption.
You can find the entire series of photographs over on Witham’s website.
Image credits: All images by Kimberly Witham, used by permission.