Laura Letinsky is a Canadian artist and photographer, who lives and works in Chicago. She is best known for her still life images, mainly using soft pastels colours. Initially she mainly used objects, fruit, china, tables, and napkins but more recently has added in photographs, magazine clippings and similar objects to her oeuvre. The pictures often show the end of things, the leftovers, the crumbs on the table. The images are surprisingly beautiful for all that they show the debris of life. In her interview with Brian Sholis (Sholis, 2013) (quoted in the OCA manual) she talks about her interest in still life as a genre that enables her to explore ‘the tension between the small and minute and larger social structures’. She describes how she uses images ‘already in the world’, including her own. She notes that ‘images are promiscuous……. they don’t care what we do with them’ and that ‘photography can help access the feelings that are intrinsic to being human’. In another interview she says, ‘Instead of inviting the viewer to partake in the traditional still life, I was interested in what remains. What gets left over, what you can’t get rid of, or what you try to hold onto’ and references Barthes’s comments about photography being always after the fact (Herrara, 2017).
In Ill Form and Void (Letinsky and Tillman, 2014) it is often difficult to be sure whether she has photographed real items, or pictures of real items or a mixture. The delicate colours of the images are set against white, cloths nd paper. Much is torn and broken. The colours are smudged. They talk about the small things, the left-over things, the left behind items. It is similar to the series Albeit – however in this case the colours are harsher and the use of torn pictures more obvious. One shows a bird on a branch with an ivory handed knife, the kind of knife I grew up with, and that are still in my mother’s drawers.
Time’s Assignation and Other Polaroids 1997 -2007 (Letinsky and Herschdorfer, 2017) is a series of Polaroids of still life’s. The surfaces are damaged, the colour is washed out. They are blotched and blurred. Some are barely visible. They are beautiful, show the small unimportant things in life. The images were made on Polaroid Type 55 film, now partly decomposed as part of her working process – but have become images in their own right, time worn.
I had only seen the occasional image by her previously but, having looked at it extensively I find myself wanting to acquire it, to hang it on my wall, to be able to stare at it when I am tired. To luxuriate in the colours. To bring back the past.
See more of her images on her website:
Herrara, B. K. (2017) Laura Letinsky on The Great Discontent (TGD). At: https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/laura-letinsky (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Letinsky, L. and Herschdorfer, N. (2017) Time’s assignation. Santa Fe : Radius Books.
Letinsky, L. and Tillman, L. (2014) Laura Letinsky: Ill form & void full. Santa Fe: Radius Books.
Sholis, B. (2013) Interview with Laura Letinsky. At: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky/ (Accessed 14/07/2020).