Memento Mori

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The Last Supper: Robert Anthony Buell

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On July 17, 1982, Robert Anthony Buell forced an eleven year old girl, Krista Harrison, into his van. Her corpse was found six days later, tossed into the weeds alongside of a country road. The girl had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Buell was executed by lethal injection on Sept 24, 2002. Although he was successfully charged only with the murder of Harrison, there was also strong evidence linking Buell to two more murders: 12 year old Tina Marie Harmon, and 10 year old Debora Kaye Smith.

Buell’s requested final meal was a single olive.

A number of convicts have used their final meal request to make a statement, although few are as inscrutable as Buell’s olive. Olives appear frequently in the bible and the olive branch is widely considered a symbol of peace; it seems plausible that this was the intended message. Of course the true meaning of Buell’s final meal died with him and all that remains is speculation. When I read about Buell’s final meal request my mind went immediately to the monochrome works of the Dutch master Pieter Claesz. This composition is very much drawn from one of my favourite Claesz pieces which, like Buell’s final meal, is centred around a single olive. The tipped cup here, as in most still life, is a reminder of the fragility of life. For a dash of colour I also included three withered red rose petals — one for each of Buell’s victims. Alongside the dead flower petals I scattered a few thorns.