Are the works of Sharon Core paintings or photographs? One
thing is certain, they are beautiful, and they are photographs. To write about
this new book of her photographs, called Early
American, one must understand the work of American artist Raphaelle Peale.
for inspiration. Core created these old-master styled photos with fruit she
grew, and with period porcelain and table settings she has collected to duplicate the
works of Peale. American painter Raphaelle Peale was the son of well-known
artist, Charles Wilson Peale. The elder Peale is best known for his painting,
The Artist in His Museum.
Peale’s work was quite different from his father’s and his contemporaries.
Raphaelle was drawn to the quietness of the still life, he creates
almost an austere or
melancholy atmosphere within his paintings. Peale avoided any suggestion of opulence as often
seen in 17th century Dutch still life.
recognized as America’s first and leading still life painter and between
1812 and 1825 he painted over one hundred of them. Most of Peale’s paintings are small in scale. He left a legacy of vibrant jewel like still
lifes depicting objects such as fruit, vegetables, and meat.
atmosphere he has created within them. His still lifes take on a strange
quality, they seem to take on the artist’s own body. American art scholar, Alexander
Nemerov has written extensively on the younger Peale and he seems to feel the
still life objects are imitations of Peale’s own body. Nemerov writes “Raphaelle’s
paintings simulate the artist’s own physical existence projected into the objects
the last detail. It took her many long hours to track down the seeds necessary
to grow the heirloom species depicted in Peale’s work. She had to hunt down through flea markets and
Ebay the Chinese porcelain and tableware prevalent in his canvases. Core has made note of the strange physical characteristics
in Peale’s work that scholar Nemerov has noted. Peale placed scars and bruising on his objects almost to make them extensions of his own body so Core has made sure we see slight
traces of life in these in inanimate objects, such as bruises, scars, and the rotting flesh of the food. Some fruit seem to caress another piece through a “finger”
as seen in Lemons, (plate 18 in the book). In the photograph Apples in a Porcelain Basket (plate 6) we can almost see an “eye”
depicted as a rotting area on one of the apples. Brian Sholis who wrote the essay for the
book, Early American, says, “ they display the physical presence and variety of
how he placed his objects. From Peale’s paintings to Core’s photographs the
diffused lighting source is not known and the backdrops seem to disappear. Compositionally
Core has placed the objects exactly life Peale’s, objects are centered and tend
to be arranged in pyramids. Peale placed his objects very close to the viewer
so one could see all of their detail and Core has followed this compositional detail
last detail such as securing the exact same piece of porcelain Peals used she
has used his work as mimesis for her work. Peale used flat canvas and paint to give dimensionality
to his work while Core uses her camera to make the dimensional objects in front
of her to look like flat yet highly detailed reproductions of Peale’s work.