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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Sometimes a still life is anything but still, and such is the case with Susie Tenzer’s “Selfie”. This work is full of energy, sweeping our eyes around and around in a kind of visual dance.



Tenzer says in her artist statement that she uses her camera to “seek out optimum perspectives”. And the perspective is very important here. Often we see floral still lifes from a classical perspective: head-on, eye-level, calm and contemplative. But Tenzer has chosen to show us her setup from above. The result is a riot of diagonal lines and swooping curves, that invite us in as if to a waltz. So much movement!

The placement and cropping also add a lot to the off-kilter excitement of the image. We see that the flower in the foreground is obviously the “star” of the work, but the other behind it seems to be moving forward as well. Placing the front one off-centre creates an impression of jostling movement, the sense that in a moment the scene could change. I can imagine a small drama taking place: the back flower is a bit disgruntled and will soon shove the attention-seeker in front out of the way.

I notice, too, the special attention Tenzer gives to edges and values. We see that the petals of the front flower have slightly sharper edges than the other, and the darks surrounding it are just a bit darker as well. This focuses our attention, but subtly. We’re all familiar with the “single eye” of the camera, which brings its main subject into sharp detail while everything else melts into a blur. Tenzer does not make the rest a blur, but she softens the edges and lightens the colours just a little. So we know what is most important, but we know that the rest is important too.

Speaking of colours, I especially like how Tenzer deals with the pink and yellow petals. They are very eye-catching and there is no other prominent pink and yellow in the work. However, mix the two together and you will have a colour quite similar to that of the pot! Harmonies such as these are just one of the aspects of this image that make it so rewarding. The more we look at it, the more we find – along with a lot of drama, enjoyment and fun.