The Very Last Supper by artist Julian Peña takes a cue from Ito Jakuchu’s monumental work, Compendium of Vegetables and Insects. That, and “dissident influences from the Dutch vanitas paintings” that reflect on mortality and the brevity of life, says the freshman University of Washington art student.
To mark this Thanksgiving holiday, we asked Peña, who was born and raised as a child in Okinawa, what ideas about food, consumption, excess (and want) are on display in his ultra-modern still life.
“The presence of food has always been an assurance of enduring life, but [here] the proteins gawk and whip their appendages in a threatening manner. Traditional and modern Japanese visual influences are combined as a unifying aesthetic. The text on the left comes from a haiku by Taneda Santoka, meaning, A great harvest / sighs / the moon content. The silver-leafed background suggests the setting under the harvest moon. The butterflies collecting around the food mimic mankind. The dust falling off of the butterfly wings alters the feast much like what we do with salt and pepper.
“Many of my paintings include kawaii imagery (a term used for cuteness in the otaku subculture, such as in Hello Kitty) and seemingly positive content. However, there is always a certain darker truth to everything. Think about Black Friday – sounds evil yet at the same time it serves a purpose to fulfill happiness and joy. I love to combine melancholy and joy or innocence; the duality seems to reflect humanity’s true nature.” And we enjoy feasting our eyes on The Very Last Supper, a stunning mash-up that captures the light and dark side of a holiday dedicated to eating.