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How “Natura Morta” Came to Be

by Darryl Halbrooks

Natura Morta,” Darryl Halbrooks’s exhibit at The Art League this month, has its origins 40 years ago.

Halbrooks was at the University of Kentucky attending a lecture by Wayne Thiebaud. Instead of discussing his own well-loved work, Thiebaud was talking about a lesser-known fellow painter, Giorgio Morandi.

“I thought, this is the dullest stuff I’ve ever seen,” Halbrooks said. But Morandi’s paintings — repetitive, drab still lifes of simple objects that became his life’s work — stuck in Halbrooks’s mind for years afterward.

Natura Morta (Still Life) by Giorgio Morandi. 1941.

Fast forward several decades, and Halbrooks was looking for a kind of break from his Plexiglas paintings. He took various boxes and plastic containers, screwed them to plywood, and painted them gray:

An early “Natura Morta” painting by Darryl Halbrooks.

But painting the images themselves didn’t capture the artist’s attention, so Halbrooks took one more step: stripes. Draping the setup in a brightly colored, striped cloth was more interesting to paint, he said.

Natura Morta 5 by Darryl Halbrooks

The drapery created a kind of “moonscape” with craters and other formations.

More recent paintings in the “Natura Morta” series are closer to the spirit of Morandi, Halbrooks said, using fewer colors.

by Darryl Halbrooks

Many artists have a back burner where they hold onto ideas for years. As a writer, printmaker, and a painter first of all, Halbrooks knows what it’s like to have an idea stick in his mind. This one just took a little longer than most to make it onto canvas.

“Natura Morta” is on view at The Art League through January 7, 2018.

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