• Julia Canfield, Ghost, oil on canvas, 2019
  • Julia Canfield, Henderson, oil on canvas, 2019
  • Julia Canfield, Indus/Ganges, oil on canvas, 2019
  • Julia Canfield, Installation image of Ironic Treasures, 2019
  • Julia Canfield, Installation image of Ironic Treasures, 2019

In this series, Ironic Treasures, I explore the ironic beauty and luminosity of single-use shopping bags by engaging with ideas of nature versus humanity, and how we distance ourselves from nature, and vice versa. In this collection of still lives in oil paint I study the forms, textures, and transparencies of these bags, highlighting their strange allure.  Through this work, viewers may confront not only the landfill we have made of our world, but the complex emotions which arise from the fatal paradox of humanity’s disgust and fascination with consumerism.

I composed most of my pieces either in the shape of countries or regions which suffer from high levels of plastic pollution or countries which produce high levels of plastic pollution. I do this by researching statistical data on pollution to determine which areas affect or are affected by plastic. Then, while looking at a map of the country of focus for the piece, I physically arrange a plastic bag to resemble the map’s depiction of the region, and then paint an abstracted illusion of the bag. I do not paint with the intent to recreate the exact appearance of the bag, rather, I allow each bag to take on its own variety of subjective beauty, which deepens the metaphor ascribed to the plastic bags and allows the meaning of each bag to vary slightly from the others. 

My objective with this series is to allow viewers to ponder the implications of living in a consumerist society while understanding the consequences of such a society. The inevitability of our own self-destruction transforms things such as plastic or fast fashion into deadly “guilty pleasures.”