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Art of the Week

Mapplethorpe and Rady - Cala Lilies
on display now at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art


Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily


Elsa Rady, Still Life I

This stunning example of Robert Mapplethorpe's work demonstrates the dramatic evolution in the treatment and meaning of still life over the past two centuries. Mapplethorpe's still lifes cannot be fully understood apart from his homoerotic figurative works. Mapplethorpe interpreted flowers, the reproductive structures of seed-bearing plants, as interchangeable with the male sex organ. Of all flowers, he was especially attracted to the calla lily, a symbol of homosexuality.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1986/89, gelatin silver print. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, funds provided by the 20th-Century Art Acquisition Fund, Susan E. Bower, and an anonymous donor.

Inspired by the calla lily, Elsa Rady uses the medium of sculpture to create simplified forms, refined surfaces, and balanced compositions. In Still Life I, her modern, poetic treatment echoes the formal elegance of earlier artistic efforts by modern women artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe.

Elsa Rady, Still Life I, 1991, porcelain on anodized aluminum shelf. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, funds provided by the 20th-Century Art Acquisition Fund and an anonymous donor.

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