Life after death

YS Arts Council celebrates It’s Still Life

By Erin Callahan

Photo: Corrine Bayraktaroglu, Still Life and Sketchbook on Coffee Table

“You can use anything that does not move or is dead.”

This is the criteria for this year’s Members Show at the Yellow Springs Arts Council (YSAC)—which leaves the participants with an abundance of artistic freedom.

The theme is still life art, where artists choose a theme, arrange a scene using various objects, tell a story and create artwork from it.

So what should you expect from this year’s member’s show? Pretty much anything.

At the opening reception, the submitted pieces will be judged by a panel of three judges and awards will be given to first, second and third place winners, with four honorable mentions. There will also be a people’s choice award, which will be determined by a vote during the evening.

Nancy Mellon, the gallery coordinator at the YSAC, describes still art as a way to tell a story from beginning to end, and allows artists a freedom that isn’t allowed elsewhere. An artist can choose the lighting, the subject matter and the medium they will use to create the artwork—whether it be painting, drawing, photographing or sculpting it—and have total control over the result.

“With still life, ordinary objects take on a whole new meaning, making us see things in a different way than we’ve ever seen them,” Mellon says.

For Sue Brezine, no subject matter is written off. She sees beauty in everything, she says, including the broken shell that’s featured in the still life she plans to enter in the Member’s Show.

She’s retired after a long career of teaching adult education art classes, so she was used to working from all kinds of objects during her lessons.

“We had objects in front of us all the time—shoes, hats, vases,” she says. “I really came to enjoy examining shapes and color, and taking other people’s artwork and making it into my own piece of art and what I see.”

While the criteria for a still life requires the subject matter to be dead or not moving, Brezine doesn’t see it that way.

“If I’m drawing wilted flowers, I don’t think of them as dead. They’re changing—it’s just another part of the journey,” she said. “There can be so many stories hidden in ‘dead’ objects. When I draw a cotton branch, I think there is such a story told there about cotton pickers and slaves. Everything has beauty, everything is worth drawing.”

While Brezine seeks out the story her chosen objects could tell, some artists prefer to use the objects in their still life to tell their own story.

Corrine Bayraktaroglu collects objects that pique her interest and usually uses things she has on hand to build an arrangement. One painting, called “Memento Mori,” features a small troll doll, a skull, a rose and a devil’s shadow. Together, these objects tell a relatable story.

“My mother gave me that doll, so it brings about memories of childhood and loss of childhood, shown with the skull and the rose. The troll doll and the devil shadow also reference the ying and yang, the good and bad in all of us.”

A common theme expressed by the artists? Still life is what you make it. And, in celebration of the Members Show, YSAC is inviting four artists to create a still life in the multi-purpose room. Each still life will be set up for one week, and the public is welcome to visit and create a work of art from the still life. Individuals may bring their own art supplies and materials, or use what is available at the gallery. The four artists who will be creating a still life are Bayraktaroglu, Susan Gartner, Rajan Kose and Carla Steiger, and the remaining weeks are Feb. 17-21 and Feb. 24-28.

Mellon encourages all to participate and share a photo of the artwork they create. All of the photos shared will then be hung throughout the gallery as a way to showcase the different interpretations of each still life piece, and each artist is eager to see the outcomes.

“I would like them to have fun with it,” Bayraktaroglu says. “Enjoy the abstraction of it. And you don’t have to draw it or paint it, you can photograph it or even do a 3D interpretation of it in Play-Doh. It will be fun to see how each person interprets the same still life differently. Each one is going to have its own personality.”

“A still life allows the artist to create the story completely, from beginning to end, and they’re making their thoughts come alive,” Mellon explains. “So, although the objects may be dead or not moving, it’s still life because of what the artists put into it.”

It’s Still Life Members Show runs Feb.19-March 13 at the Yellow Springs Arts Council. The opening reception will take place Feb. 19, from 6-9 p.m. at the Yellow Springs Arts Council Community Gallery, 111 Corry St. in Yellow Springs. For more information, please visit or call 937.767.1366. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at


Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at

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