Josh Kilmer-Purcell on Paulette Tavormina
“It’s wonderful enough to simply admire one of Paulette Tavormina’s intricate still-lifes. Every viewer finds themselves lost in the narrative details –the hovering butterfly; the one bruised piece of fruit; the errant, wilting leaf.
I’ve had the additional joy of participating in the creation of several of Tavormina’s works. For several months, many years ago, I would cart several hampers full of heirloom fruits & vegetables from our garden in upstate NY to Paulette’s apartment/studio in Manhattan. Each Sunday night we would go through the haul together, marveling at the textures of a squash, or the gradient coloring of a tomato. On really lucky weeks I’d find the corpse of a caterpillar or grasshopper, carefully wrap them in tissue, and present them to Paulette like a priceless gemstone.
Over the course of the following week she would painstakingly stage and capture her vision of the cornucopia from our farm. The patience and ingenuity in which she poses her subject matter rivals the work of a Broadway choreographer. Keep in mind that her materials are completely organic. Though the result is a still-life, the process is anything but. Vines droop. Fruit molds. Over the course of the several days it takes for Tavormina to get the final shot, the scene changes minute-by-minute, hour by hour.
The result is, of course, striking. Especially if one is privy to the process. The photographs created from our harvests somehow transformed all of the sprawling exuberance of our 210-year-old, reckless farm garden into highly organized, split-second, narratives.
It is this intersection of fleeting transience and timelessness that I think holds the power of Tavormina’s work. Her work is often described as drawing from the still life paintings of 17th Century Old Masters. But the fact that they are photographs, and not paintings gives the viewer an even higher sense of awe. They prove that in the right, talented hands nature can be controlled. Nature can be organized. Not an interpretative painting of nature…the actual physical pieces of nature itself. Organic, messy beauty becomes polished perfection. While Paulette’s photography is certainly composed, it’s never feels manipulated. It’s condensed, but not edited. To use a contemporary phrase: ‘The camera doesn’t lie.’
Which is why, to me, each one of Tavormina’s painstakingly, tightly composed photographs is really an explosion. They reveal one of the more difficult truths of nature: the precarious coexistence of messy organic excess and deliberate religious perfection.”
Cross Currents is a recurring series that shares the insightful perspectives of influential individuals on fine art photography.
The series creates a dialogue that emphasizes and expresses the power of art.
We use the concept of “Cross Currents” to illustrate how a significant master in one art or practice can influence a different expression form. For the series, Holden Luntz Gallery connects with gifted individuals outside the discipline of photography and asks them to share their thoughts on a photographer or a body of work and how it has impacted them.