The humble still life—the genre of art that features only an arrangement of objects—has managed, over the centuries, to contain multitudes. Still-life images are their own worlds, greater than the sum of their parts; they have been radical formal experiments, markers of colonialism and wealth, stark reminders of mortality, love letters and portraits, and even illustrations of scientific knowledge.
In Subtext and Overstory, Quad Cities artist Randy Richmond presents ten still-life photographs from his most recent work. Half of the images—the “subtext” of the title—were composed and shot with window light in his small 7’x10’ studio. The other half—the “overstory”—were created and shot outside, with the tree canopy as background, in a much more involved process of staging and lighting. Both bodies of work offer viewers exquisite compositions of colors and shapes in which the lines between inside and outside, the lifeless and the vital, are blurred.
The “subtext” works are sparsely populated a ball of twine or a vase standing sentinel in a velvety interior while the “overstory” works feature an immobile abundance: a bouquet of flowers in a jar of water is set against a rolling landscape, or a dingy, taxidermized swan sits silently in front of a pond. All of the images are quiet, rich, and mysterious. The result of a painstaking and time-consuming process, they evoke feelings but resist explicit narrative. In an era where sophisticated cameras are in every pocket and millions of photos are posted daily on Instagram, Richmond’s works are revolutionary and fearless.
Like DuMA’s concurrent Craft Invitational exhibition, Subtext and Overstory shows the transformation—via skill, artistry, and imagination—of everyday items and materials into objects and images with extraordinary power.
About the Artist
Randy Richmond is an adjunct instructor of photography at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. He has shown his work in numerous solo, group, invitational, and juried exhibitions nationally and internationally. His interpretation of environmental issues has been the focus of special exhibitions created for the Door County Land Trust in Wisconsin, the Keeweenaw Land Trust in Michigan, and the Iowa National Heritage Foundation. His work is in the collections of the Figge Art Museum (Davenport, Iowa); The Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, Colorado); Kishwaukee College (Malta, Illinois); and Project Art of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.