Still lifes: Natures mortes

Nature is complex with many choices to be made in traversing through its terrain which reveals remnants of the cycles of nature and life itself. Year after year I observe the inevitable effect of the passage of time on the natural world that always reminds me that all life is temporary. During my many visits to a particular place near the small towns of Coloma and Covert in Southwestern Michigan, I wander the woods and beaches as a witness to the persistent “little deaths” that occur therewhether or not I’m there to observe them. Trees shed their leaves, hornets abandon their nests, birds mistake a reflection in a window for the sky during their migratory travels and the lake delivers beautifully weathered sticks to the beach. I am compelled to claim and photograph these “gifts” from the environment in an effort to acknowledge the somber beauty and human metaphor in their ordinary deaths. They help me to come to terms with understanding the relationship between denial and acceptance of my own mortality.

I have always been attracted to found objects and in 1982 began to photograph the weathered, mutilated, and often destroyed objects I had begun to collect and hang all over my kitchen wall. A run over tin can or discarded child’s hairbrush, flattened and distorted over time, once observed and absorbed became strangely familiar and emblematic of the cycles of life in the city. In their transformation these objects take on a formal beauty that is haunted with transience. This body of work, titled Objet Trouvé, embodies the suggestion of human evolution and human fatalities.

In my new work, Still Lifes: Natures Mortes, found natural objects, caught in the process of decay and change, are isolated and photographed minimally on a black background. This direct, confrontational approach prioritizes and dignifies the subject while at the same time establishes an unavoidable clarity. The extremely large scale of the objects in the final images emphasizes a “hyper-reality”. This forces the viewer to inspect the magnified details of the subject while engaging in the intrinsic dialogue between description and transformation. The fixed gestures of the dead animals have human references and reinforce my desire to come to terms with the vulnerabilities of my life. These iconic images are tangible, if somewhat fatalistic, emblems of an uneasy preoccupation with the inevitability of death.

Barbara Crane

General statement

On the usage of Polaroid

Human forms

Fleshy Fungi

Taste of Chicago

Visions of Enarc II

Coloma to Covert Sticks


Coloma to Covert scrolls

Chicago Loop series

Murals for Baxter / Travenol Labs

Wipe Outs

Download  Barbara's statements about her work in a pdf format.