home > article > Old Fruit, Modern Life

Artist's Notebook

Old Fruit, Modern Life


The last peaches of summer. That’s how pastry chefs referred to September peaches when I was in the business. They’re wonderful in a tart with ginger ice cream of course, but more than that they’re a symbol of an ending, of the last warm days of dying summer, the fleeting days of cricket song and cooler nights. When the peaches are fresh picked, they’re glorious, full of juice and intense flavor. Overripe they’re even more impressive, as there’s such beauty in the dying. This is what I’m trying to paint now. Thinking about this a month or so ago, I thought that the young peaches are like children to me with their smooth blushing skin, and all the character of midlife and old age is there in the wrinkled and bruised skin of a peach that is overripe. But there was more than that. My painting professor at graduate school told me that this is a cliché. I must look deeper, she said. So I did.

Did you know that ripe fruit in ancient still life painting represented nature in its most uncultured state? Untouched by human hands, figs that fall from the tree and split on the ground are offered from the earth in their raw state, ready to eat. They need no heating, no cutlery, no plate.  In this way they are part of the animal world, the uncooked, the uncultured. On the other hand, pictures of aging produce historically represent the fragility and brevity of life, especially in ages that didn’t know refrigeration. Mortality. If food is pictured cooked, it represents culture, the intervention of humans, the idea of a host entertaining a guest.

In my dying peach painting, I wanted to address this and more. To paint a peach with all the particularity and individuality of a portrait, untouched by human intervention. To paint a baggie with it, not an object traditionally thought of as beautiful but instead an object I use frequently in my modern kitchen. To engage the viewer in a conversation by leaving out some things, by building up paint in places on the surface, by scraping it away in others. A portrait of wrinkles and bruises and fragility, of thick and thin, of the duality of life, so rarely allowed in a culture like ours where youth is celebrated and old age smoothed over to hide all its character and truth. A culture of denial.  A culture of manipulated digital imagery that rushes past us at breakneck speed, fragmented and inauthentic. Here is my ten-year-old son’s untouched photo of my aunt who never bought into the youth culture.

She is gorgeous to me. One of my acquaintances had her eyes “done.” All the character was gone from her face afterward. Her husband told her she looked ten years younger. I’m glad it made them happy, but for me it raised questions. I know the stories of people who suffer from terrible self-esteem due to aging and how plastic surgery helped them live a better life. What I question is different than that. Who knows how I will feel in another decade when it’s my face that is showing its age more, but right now I’m questioning why happy people with well-earned laugh lines compare themselves to airbrushed photos and find themselves forever lacking.

So I’ve been wondering about that, and why I see such beauty, such grace, in my dying peach. If it makes you wonder too, click the “post a comment” link under the title of this entry above. What do you see?

Tell a friend about this article:

Jellypress is about Nancy and Laura having fun with what they love: old recipes, art, and ideas--as we find them in our modern lives.  We met...read more »

Yes, all the artwork on Jellypress was done by Nancy. Go to the Jellypress Art page

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyTo find out about Laura's search for a long lost family recipe, click [ What's a Jellypress?

Comments on this post

Discuss this post.
Tell a Friend...

Very nice and thanks for sharing…

    – Sportswear (November 13 2008 at 5:47)

Very artistic. You are very talented, hope to see more of your paintings.

Thank you so much for sharing this to us!

    – Painters Decorators (November 13 2008 at 6:32)

Page 1 of 1 pages of comments

Commenting is not available in this section entry.


© 2007 Nancy Gail Ring. All fine art images appearing on jellypress.com are protected under United States Copyright Law. No art from this web site may be downloaded, frame-grabbed or printed without written consent.