Still, life.

Michelle Markatos

Finding Inspiration in Plant Life.

Helios (Sun), 2023. Digital Image.

I began graduate studies during a significant period in my life. As I turned 50 during the first summer residency, I was experiencing a transformation in my relationships with my children and my body. Initially, I planned to continue researching clay, my primary material, but I soon discovered that photography was an essential tool for my artistic growth. By exploring each medium, I was able to strengthen my practice and expand my research questions. Lens-based work and clay experiments allowed me to re-engage with my love of nature and find beauty in my changing body and relationships.

I found comfort in plant life and used it to inspire my art-making practice. For me, it felt more like a navigation tool to reconcile life experiences of moving forward while looking backward. I remembered the fleeting childhood moments, raising my three children, and now dealing with this new-old identity. The life cycles of plants, especially the decaying process, intrigued me, and it continues to help me navigate aging. Through macro photography, I discovered there was still life in blooms frozen in their final resting position, and it gave me a front-row seat to seeing memory resting in the material. I found beauty in this decay, which inspired me to work with paper clay, a process of adding pulp to strengthen the clay that would burn out during maturity. This process seemed to parallel life.

To take a photograph is to participate in another

person’s (or thing’s)mortality, vulnerability, mutability.

Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it,

all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

– Susan Sontag [1]


[1] Sontag, Susan. “In Plato’s Cave.” On Photography. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977, 11.

Installation View. Still, life. Finding Inspiration in Plant Life, 2023.

Still, life, my thesis exhibition included three large-scale framed photographs and four clay sculpture objects. Helios (Sun) and Ephemeros Series 1 + 2 capture memory through the light, form, and transparency in decaying leaves and represent my time in Greece. The clay sculptural objects represent life cycles, loss, and fading memories and were intuitively informed by the lens-based work.

Installation View. Still, life. Finding Inspiration in Plant Life, 2023.

Installation View. Still, life. Finding Inspiration in Plant Life, 2023.

Still, life: Objects – 1, 2023. Porcelain Paper Clay. 4 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ x 14″.

Helios (Sun), 2023. Archival Inkjet Print on Archival Paper. 41 1/2″ x 53 1/2″.

Still, life: Objects – 3, 2023. Porcelain Paper Clay. 6″ x 13 1/4″ diameter.

Still, life: Objects – 2, 2023. Porcelain Paper Clay. 5″ x 15″ x 16″.

Still, life: Objects – 4, 2023. Porcelain Paper Clay. 4″ x 14″ diameter.

Ephemeros Series 1 + 2, 2023. Installation View with Still, life Objects – 4. Framed Archival Inkjet Prints on Archival Paper. 41 1/2″ x 53 1/2″.

Ephemeros Series 1, 2023. Digital Image.

Ephemeros Series 2. 2023. Digital Image.

Michelle Markatos

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Michelle Markatos is an interdisciplinary artist based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Through material-based and practice-led research, she has developed a unique style that explores light, form, and memory. Drawing inspiration from a background in film and ceramics, she creates sculptural clay objects and lens-based artworks that often challenge the viewer’s perception of decay and beauty. She obtained her MFA (2023) from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, a Post-Baccalaureate in Ceramics (2021) and a BFA in Film Production (1997) from University of Regina.

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