Interview with Constance Lewallen on “Still Lifes, 1990”
CL: Certainly the landscapes with which you are dealing are not of the 19th-century sort, pristine and untouched. Like Smithson, you are interested in the postindustrial landscape, especially land that has been used, misused, trod upon, fought over, divided, surveyed.
As in my earlier work, I question this recurrent and perverse urge to correct nature, and the romantic concepts of perfection which disfigure, denaturalize, and deceive. My version of Still Life was a display of discarded material leaning against the wall, like refuse. It was a twelve-piece installation which formed an eight-foot tall row of Still Lifes made of unstretched painted canvases propped up against the wall by means of steel rods, precariously balancing a variety of live, dead, natural and manmade, materials. It was an impoverished landscape, a place of struggle. What was once a display of men's dominance and triumph over nature has now turned into a hopeless struggle for recovery. The grass that grew on the canvas changed colors over the course of the exhibition as it dried out.