Meet your meat

Poultry for Smithfields, Sarah F. Burns

When I saw this, it reminded me of two different paintings by Chardin (also involving game birds one step away from the oven), both in the choice of subject, the simplicity of the staging and in the handling of paint. Great work, part of an interesting and compelling series of vanitas paintings by Sarah F. Burns in Oregon. At one point, the project involved dragging a bloody bear carcass into her Ashland studio. This woman is serious about her meat. And her art. Her friend Jennifer Nitson interviewed Sarah and came away with a nice small profile of the artist containing a wonderful, illuminating quote: “I have been particularly interested in small-scale meat production and nose-to-tail eating because I grew up in that type of lifestyle. My father was a farm-kill butcher when I was born. That means he went from farm to farm killing livestock and brought them back to the butcher shop to cut up and wrap.”  The work was commissioned by a local restaurant in Ashland, named after a London market. As Sarah puts it on her blog: “Smithfields is . . . named after a London meat market with a very long history, going back to the middle ages where it was the place of public executions, becoming a livestock market, and is currently a wholesale meat market today.”

It’s sense of timelessness is what especially appeals to me about this work. It could have been painted two centuries ago and yet it looks totally contemporary as well. I guess that last sentence is just a long way home to the word classic.

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