Jana Sterbak, 2012 Canada Council laureate – on Vanitas, the meat dress

Jana Sterbak, 2012 Canada Council laureate – on Vanitas, the meat dress


There is nothing extraordinary
about the making of Vanitas. The meat-drying or the
salt-and-fish-drying process has existed for millennia. There is nothing new about it. Maybe the novelty is the fact
that I brought the process into the contemporary art scene,
and into the exhibit space. The message might be strong. And some said that the message,
specifically its historical reference, might not be
understood by everyone. The title Vanitas echoes
Renaissance works, in which the passage of time is
illustrated by fine details in the painting of fruit, flowers,
and by the depiction of rot. These works were intended to
remind us that time flies, and that we have
to be engaged now. Essentially, this
reflection is almost Buddhist. Eventually people stopped
paying attention to these paintings, which were
mainly found in dining rooms. In Spanish, these paintings
are called bodegón, vanitas or even memento mori. If this specific work
of mine has been seen as having negative
connotations or has been perceived as provocative… well, it didn’t occur to me,
and it was not my intention, because, for me, the material
was simply and concretely expressing the idea of aging,
and the passage of time. That’s all.

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