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Greedy consumption at heart of Seacoast exhibition

THIS PIECE by Wayne Atherton references a trend in Flemish art of the 1600s, when painters engaged in a running commentary of Dutch wealth and power. Expressing the concept that riches would be meaningless in the end, art often featured objects in states of decay, including skulls and fruits. 
It's a sort of artistic take on the old adage, "You can't take it with you."

"Vanitas: The Meaningless and Futility of Conspicuous Consumption," the brainchild of local printmaker Shane P. Chick, features the work of more than 22 artists exploring a Flemish type of dark, symbolic work of art popular in the 17th century.

The showcase will open Friday, April 5, at 3S Artspace's temporary gallery space in the Store Gallery, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth.

Meaningless Things

"Still life was the predominant mode of communicating this paradox, of working your whole life to amass wealth only to die and have it become meaningless," said Chick of the Flemish idea of "vanitas."

Painters in the 1600s engaged in a running commentary on the wealth and power of the Dutch through their works, motivated by the thought that once at the top there was only one direction left to travel - downward. Riches would do no one service once a person was dead and buried, curators said.

"The themes that were explored were dark, depressing and full of skulls, overripe fruits, clocks and items of opulence in various states of decay," Chick said. "This is an idea that we feel is not only historical, but also poignant and contemporary.

"We, as a country, are in the depths of the consequences of becoming the richest most powerful entity on the planet," he said. "We either despair or compensate for those feelings of powerlessness with a fascination of the themes that were painted in the 17th-century Dutch. This show will have its dark spots of skulls and dead birds, as well as tongue-in-cheeks explorations of the rise to wealth."

In addition to Chick, participating artists, who have expressed their points of view through various mediums, including painting, photography, mixed media, wood-block prints and installation, include Wayne Atherton, Erin Bonneau, Shawn Burke, Courtney Chelo, Taintor Davis Child, Kenley Darling, Peter Flynn Donovan, Josh Dow, Lauren Dow, Aaron Drew, Kim Ferriera, Nick Filth, John Gayle, Carly Glovinski, Ali Goodwin, Jasmine Inglesmith, Jeanne McCartin, Kate Mochon, Sam Paolini, Dave Pettengill, Nathaniel Raymond, Meghan Samson, Lynn Szymanski and Jocelyn Toffic.

Their works, curators said, tie together to tell the story of the "meaningless pursuit of greedy consumption."

An opening reception will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and will be followed by a party and open-studios event on the second floor with live music and local food from 8 to 11 p.m. "Vanitas" will run through Sunday, April 28. Hours are Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, log onto or


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