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.”

Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Josh Kilmer-Purcell is an American writer, businessperson, and television personality. Kilmer-Purcell is the bestselling author of the memoir I Am Not Myself These Days and the novel Candy Everybody Wants. In addition to his New York Times and National Bestselling memoirs, his life has been documented in the reality show The Fabulous Beekman Boys with his husband, Brent Ridge. The series followed the couple as they learned to become farmers and launch their lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802. He has written articles for NPRHuffington PostPublishers WeeklyAdWeekOUT Magazine, & others. 
Kilmer-Purcell has written and co-written six books, including two bestselling memoirs, a novel, and four cookbooks. I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir, Kilmer-Purcell’s first memoir is a tragicomic account of his early days in New York City, living as an advertising art director by day and a drag queen named “Aquadisiac” (or “Aqua”) by night. The memoir details his relationship with a crack-addicted male escort named “Jack” and was a New York Times bestseller in 2006. The Bucolic Plague, Kilmer-Purcell’s second memoir, recounts his purchase of a historic mansion and goat farm in Sharon Springs, New York, and quickly became a national bestseller.
Kilmer-Purcell has worked at several Manhattan advertising agencies, including Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, Merkley Newman Harty, TBWA\Chiat Day, SS+K, & JWT. As his drag queen alter ego “Aquadisiac,” Kilmer-Purcell performed at nightclubs around the world. Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge’s lifestyle company, Beekman 1802, is now considered one of the world’s biggest goat-milk skincare companies. 
Paulette Tavormina Portrait

Paulette Tavormina

Paulette Tavormina lives and works in New York City. Amidst the bustle that defines the city, she can often be found at one of the city’s many farmers markets, searching for the perfectly imperfect flora that characterize her photographs. Her arrangements often recall the sumptuous detail of seventeenth-century Old Master still life painters and serve as intensely personal interpretations of timeless, universal stories. With a painterly perspective reminiscent of Francisco de Zurbarán, Adriaen Coorte, and Giovanna Garzoni, Tavormina creates worldly still lives.

She was awarded the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2016. Her monograph book, Paulette Tavormina: Seizing Beauty, was published by The Monacelli Press, 2016 and reviewed by The New York Times and Architectural Digest.

Tavormina’s photographs are in museums, corporate, and private collections and have been exhibited in Paris, London, Moscow, Lugano, New York, Palm Beach, Boston, and San Francisco, among other renowned locations. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Art in Embassies, U.S. Department of State, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, Michigan and Alimentarium, Musee de l’Alimentation, Vevey, Switzerland. Tavormina also works as a commercial photographer – she has photographed works of art for Sotheby’s, collaborated with The Fabulous Beekman Boys on their three heirloom cookbooks, and photographed The Del Posto Cookbook with chef Mark Ladner, published by Hachette. She has been commissioned by National Geographic Magazine and The New York Times, among others.

View Works by Paulette Tavormina

Paulette Tavormina, Roots, 2008, Archival Pigment Photograph

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.