“I used objects found at Recology that sort of represent the precarious nature of our lives as human beings, but also how the things we hold onto or the things we’ve collected in our lifetime have an entire lifetime after us in the landfill.”
Written by Weston Teruya
Kija Lucas uses photography to explore home, heritage, and memory–and how those ideas can be embedded in the objects we gather around us over time and across generations. In Still, Life, Lucas draws on the visual language of 16th and 17th century vanitas still lifes, an artistic genre that utilized opulent arrangements of symbolic objects like skulls, rotting food, and snuffed out candles to remind viewers of the transience of earthly life and the inevitability of decay.
In this new series of photographs created at Recology, she draws on motifs that suggest impermanence and death common within vanitas, reinterpreted for our contemporary age: piles of chiropractic demonstration spines, real decomposing flowers alongside eternally bright artificial arrangements, an upended and outdated classroom globe mapping countries that no longer exist, and fallen drapery of plastic bags and gold lamé. This mixture of the ephemeral and obstinately imperishable serves as a sobering reminder that even while we each face our mortality, the manifestations of our consumption and social impact will linger well beyond our lifespans.
In her past projects, Lucas has used her keen photographic eye for details and curiosity about other people’s lives to draw out nuanced narratives about the seemingly mundane, whether a sentimental belonging, a species of plant, or bits of burnt wood. While the materials gathered at Recology are impossible to trace back to their origins and specific stories, she utilizes that same careful observation to momentarily reactivate these discarded objects and invites us to contemplate these collections as things, symbols, and carriers of hidden tales. The series serves as both a somber reflection of our times–offering us space to meditate on the loss and upheaval of the past two years–and a consideration of the glut of materials that we consume and throw away.
Kija Lucas’s work has been exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California, Anglim Gilbert Gallery, Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, California Institute of Integral Studies, Palo Alto Arts Center, Intersection for the Arts, Mission Cultural Center, and Root Division, as well as Venice Arts in Los Angeles, CA, La Sala d’Ercole/Hercules Hall in Bologna Italy, and Casa Escorsa in Guadalajara, Mexico. Lucas has been an Artist in Residence at Montalvo Center for the Arts, Grin City Collective, and The Wassaic Artist Residency. Lucas received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her MFA from Mills College.