#Marisa Adesman
#still life

Uncanny Phenomena Derail Domestic Bliss in Marisa Adesman’s Luminous Paintings

May 10, 2024

Grace Ebert

“Imitatio Ludum” (2020), oil on panel, 10 x 8 inches. All images courtesy of the artist and Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles/New York, shared with permission

Marisa Adesman unsettles domestic stability by twisting common sights into the surreal. From her studio in St. Louis, the artist infuses still lifes evocative of the Dutch Golden Age with a strange animism: forks coil around lit taper candles, an upside-down terracotta pot appears to levitate, and an illustrated kitchen tile seamlessly morphs into the feathered flesh of a duck. The luminous oil paintings use food and dining to explore issues of gender, culture, and politics, including the invisible labor women historically have undertaken.

A seemingly simple tool, the fork becomes a loaded metaphor in Adesman’s works. The sleek metal cutlery is buoyant and feisty as it shape-shifts and writhes, transforming a static instrument into a lively actor. “As a symbol of both nurturance and control, the fork’s pliability questions the hierarchies of value that we’ve placed on the ideas of ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized,’ ‘domestic’ and ‘wild’…By using various cutlery to feed ourselves, we dine rather than eat, believing we are somehow more refined, more civilized than other species,” she shares.

Whereas the fork paintings imply a human presence, Adesman’s newer works translate the body into phantasmic forms. “By a Thread,” for example, witnesses shiny, translucent fingers grasping at a pulley rope, while lace-gloved hands in “Out From Under” emerge from the floorboards alongside a bouquet.

“I aim to create tension between contrasting sensations: sensual yet horrifying, nourishing yet violent, familiar yet surreal, alluring yet deceptive,” the artist adds. “These dichotomies serve as a metaphor for the paradoxes of human life and especially the feminine experience.” Enchanted by a mysterious force, the paintings call attention to the immense labor of maintaining domestic life that, to those who have traditionally benefitted from it, may have seemed like magic all along.

Explore more of Adesman’s paintings on her site and Instagram.


“Midnight Snack” (2021), oil on canvas, 20 x 14 inches

“All’s Fair…” (2021), oil on canvas, 18 x 25.25 inches

“Chasing Tail” (2022), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

“All the Trappings” (2020), oil on panel, 10 x 8 inches

“By a Thread” (2023), oil on canvas, 24 x 22 inches

“Out From Under” (2023), oil on canvas, 62 x 42 inches

#Marisa Adesman
#still life


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