Catherine Howe has produced her generation’s most sumptuously inviting yet socially-decadent conflations made in the name of painterly reflection. For the last twenty years, she has painted some variation of expressionist figuration, usually with readily-apparent allusions to art history. Her most recent work applies the notion of expressionist entropy to her own singular rephrasing of the epoch of still life paintings issued in 16th- and 17th-century Netherlands and Flanders, the most famous being categorized under the rubrics of vanitas and pronk painting.
Howe especially lingers over exquisite portrayals of beautiful objects, both man-made and organic, envisioned by the Dutch and Flemish masters to convey the transience of life on earth. In this respect, Howe disregards the severe and blunt vanitas paintings of skulls and decay in favor of over-ripe and peeled fruit, liquors languishing in food- and lipstick-smudged glassware, and the blooms of flowers showing the first signs of their demise to come. But above such significations, Howe esteems “the moment” that will endure forever in art, and like the Dutch vanitas painters, instead of choosing to memorialize the peak of beauty, she captures the lingering evidence of the party that has just ended, yet is still felt by its revelers in the flush of night-long intoxications. The pronk still lifes are especially valued by Howe for their extravagantly-rendered, shimmering-to-the-point-of-ostentatious details, thereby inviting the lurid sensibilities of the contemporary expressionist painter to exploit their reinterpretation in an orgy of sensual overindulgence.