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Create Your Own Still Life
An analysis of a work of art

This work of art and article are by English teacher Victoria Fontana. 1: study the vocabulary in this activity: Still Life Matching or Still Life Vocabulary. 2: listen to the text in this activity and put the words in the order that you hear them in: Still Life WebSequitur. 3: read and listen to the article in this simple interactive activity: Still Life Cloze or in this difficult activity: Still Life Webrhubarb. 4: take this Still Life Quiz.

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If you prefer, simply listen and read the text below:

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Article and work of art copyright
Victoria Fontana. Sitios web:

Create Your Own Still Life

This painting is called “Create Your Own Still Life”. It is a cry out against the simple viewer, against the way we look at art and against our own laziness when contemplating different styles and creations.

There are three parts to the painting. The large rectangle on the left is a still life, loosely interpreted, yet essentially still figurative. It is not a pure abstraction. If you look carefully, each piece in the still life is a gesture of the real piece and a number. Try to visualize this as a painting in and of itself – without the other two sections.

The vertical rectangle on the right is a numbered display of all of the pieces of the still life – a sort of key to the still life on the left. – Does it make you more comfortable to see the original pieces in the model?

The bottom thin rectangle is a combination of numbers and letters – reciting the children’s poem – “One, two, buckle my shoe...” (See it on: Warning: pop-ups.) When we were children, we sang songs like this. They were easy to remember, yet strangely enough, they often did not make any sense at all. Our minds were open.

We seem to have a constant need to make sense of everything we see, say, hear and do. If we can’t make sense of it, we reject it, not only when we look at art, but in our everyday lives. We reject ideas that are different from our own, people who come from cultures that we don’t understand.

When we contemplate a work of art that is not realistic – or figurative, some of us reject it because we don’t know what to make of it. We often end up saying things like, “My 3-year-old nephew could paint this” or something similar. While it is true that there are some works of art that are a scandal, that are a farce, we also need to make an effort to know more, learn more about what we are looking at – or just dare to try to understand it.

We are comfortable looking at a realistic painting because we feel empowered by our ability to recognize skill – the more realistic it is, the more skill the artist has. It’s easy and comfortable to understand. It is only when we are forced to understand something that at first glance makes us confused, uncomfortable, unsure, that we begin to grow. We must then make a choice: continue walking until you get to a painting you can recognize, or stop and contemplate what you are looking at, ask yourself how it makes you feel, and then educate yourself so as to understand more about why the painting merits our respect (or not).

“Life imitates art” – should we not do the same in our daily lives? Or is it just easier to remain ignorant, and choose to hate that which we do not understand?

© Victoria Fontana

Vocabulary (In context)

Practice the vocabulary: Still-life Matching or Still Life Vocabulary.

Still life – a picture or painting that represents inanimate objects.
Cry out against – to protest.
Laziness – resistant to work or effort, prone to doing nothing.
Figurative – in art: representing or resembling a form or shape.
Gesture – an expression of an object or form with quick moving strokes.
In and of itself – something as it appears alone, by itself.
Display – to present for others to view.
Recite – to repeat and say aloud something memorized.
Strangely enough – an expression meaning “as difficult as it may be to believe”.
Reject – to refuse to receive or accept.
Scandal – a violation of morality which provokes a loss of trust or faith.
Farce – a poor and insincere imitation of something.
Dare – to be courageous enough to do something.
Empowered – to give power or courage to.
Skill - ability.
At first glance - on initial consideration (idiomatic expression).
Merit – to deserve.
Remain – to stay.

Comprehension Quiz:

Do you understand the text? Take this quiz and find out: Still Life Quiz.

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