Still Life Studies: Pomegranate with Dead Mice / by Neal Auch

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“The amount of meaning is in exact proportion to the presence of death and the power of decay” — Walter Benjamin

I’ve been working on some new still life arrangements! This series of images use the same key elements — pomegranates, dead mice, and organ meats — to explore ideas around death and sexuality. A selection of these new images are available for purchase in my Etsy store.

The pomegranate is a common element in still life painting that is usually understood to represent temptation and sin, due to the role the fruit plays in the Greek myth The Rape of Persephone. I found it natural to pair the pomegranate along with mice, another common element from the history of still life. Mice also typically have sexual connotations in still life paintings; their extraordinary fertility means that they are often interpreted as symbols of lechery and destruction. In these images I pair the adult mouse with a handful of dead baby mice, reinforcing the underlying themes of sexuality. (Special thanks to Ankixa of Casual Taxidermy for the rat hookup…)

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All still life compositions contain, to greater or lesser extent, a lament about the transience of all things. These images are, of course, no exception. The fruit, meat, and dead animals remind us of death and decay. The extinguished candle in the image above is one of my favourite iconographic elements from the history of still life. The candle is both a marker of the passage of time, and also a metaphor for a life extinguished. In all three images I’ve also included the tipped cup, a common metaphor for the fragility of life. In the above example this meaning is enhanced by the placement of the cup precariously close to the ledge.

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For this last shot I couldn’t resist including a phallic arrangement of cow trachea. Notice also the fetal mouse tucked away inside the pomegranate “womb” and the delightful way that the blood red tone in the fresh pig intestines pair with the vibrantly coloured pomegranate seeds and weird pink hues of the baby mice.

Enjoy!