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  • Writer's pictureLandon Clay


I painted this still life in a single week's workshop. While I was working on this still life, a woman I had seen occasionally around the studio said lightly, "Oh, fun. Travel trash." I looked at her, a little disturbed by her statement. At the time, I self-righteously considered her rudeness as ignorance and her remark intentionally flippant. However, thinking about it later, I realized I was likely too sensitive.

These are objects I value: a passport, a notebook, a sketchbook, plane tickets to two countries where I have lived and studied, and a book by Schopenhauer, all organized on a backdrop of the American colors of red, white, and blue. The two tickets are souvenirs of my time in the United Kingdom and Spain.

The book by Schopenhauer is a meditation on suffering and happiness. The book has one quote that always stood out to me. It encourages the reader to consider: "One simple test of the claim that the pleasure in the world outweighs the pain…is to compare the feelings of an animal that is devouring another with those of the animal being devoured." Heavy stuff, but it is an intriguing thought.

Considering that episode now, I realize how easy it is to assume others share our value systems. What I treasured, the woman had viewed as trash. Meditating on this episode, I wondered to myself, "How often have I done the same to others?"

I certainly try not to do so. Instead, I appreciate concrete and positive episodes which check my understanding and values.

Still lifes are most interesting to me when they tell stories. This arrangement shared my story with the viewer. The viewer shared her reaction with me. Her response shared a part of her story, and I could have used that offhand comment to learn more about her. Next time I'll know to ask.


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