Paulette Tavormina

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Works

Cabbage and Melon, After J.S.C., 2010

Paulette Tavormina

Cauliflower and Peaches, After J.S.C., 2010

Paulette Tavormina

Plums with Chinese Walnuts, After G.G., 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Anthony and Cleopatra, 2017

Paulette Tavormina

Zebra Finches and Tulips, 2017

Paulette Tavormina

Orchard Apples, 2016

Paulette Tavormina

Orchard Pears, 2016

Paulette Tavormina

Orchard Plums, 2016

Paulette Tavormina

Oranges After F.D.Z., 2008

Paulette Tavormina

Flowers and Butterfly, After G.V.S., 2012

Paulette Tavormina

Figs After G.F., 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Peaches and Hydrangeas, After G.G., 2015

Paulette Tavormina

Roses and Figs, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Still Life with Melons and Basket, After L.M., 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Lemons and Prickly Pears, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Still Life with Figs and Apricots, After L.M., 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Flowers and Fish IV, After G.V.S., 2012

Paulette Tavormina

Yellow Cherries and Crab Apples, After G.G., 2011

Paulette Tavormina

Cornucopia, 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Lemons and Peony, After F.D.Z., 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Bread and Dragonfly, After J.V.H., 2011

Paulette Tavormina

Strawberries, 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Quince, After G.G., 2008

Paulette Tavormina

Wild Raspberries, After G.G., 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Cranberry Beans, After G.G., 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical I: Cherry Blossoms, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Watermelon Radishes, 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Figs and Morning Glories, After G.G., 2010

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical II: Ranunculus and Delphiniums, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical III: Bleeding Hearts and Delphiniums, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Sour Cherries, After G.G., 2011

Paulette Tavormina

Crabs and Lemons, After P.C., 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical IV: Water Lilies and Poppies, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical V: Peonies and Wisteria, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Peaches and Morning Glories, After GG., 2010

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical VI: Juliet Roses, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Botanical VII: Tulips, 2013

Paulette Tavormina

Oysters, After W.C.H., 2008

Paulette Tavormina

Still Life with Quince and Jug, After L.M., 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Still Life with Jamon Iberico, After L.M., 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Still Life with Cauliflower and Bread, After L.M., 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Peonies, 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Flowers and Fish I, After G.V.S., 2012

Paulette Tavormina

Persimmons, After A.C., 2009

Paulette Tavormina

Bread and Wine, 2014

Paulette Tavormina

Early Years and Photographic Career

Tavormina was born in 1949 in Rockville Centre, New York. In the late 1970s and 80s she worked at Sotheby’s, New York. Being surrounded by fine art, Tavormina gained an extensive education in the history of art. Tavormina’s interest in photography grew out of taking a black and white photography and darkroom technique class when living in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1990. She was immediately transfixed by the magical appearance of an image on paper from a bath of chemicals. Besides photographing portraits, scenes and objects in black and white, she began working with historic Indian pottery and Navajo jewelry, honing her skills in lighting and technique using a Hasselblad camera and studio lighting.

Tavormina went on to work as a prop specialist for Hollywood motion pictures. She was responsible for research, design and creation of props, working on movies including The Perfect Storm, Nixon, The Astronaut’s Wife and The Phantom. Whilst in Santa Fe, Tavormina was introduced to the paintings of two seventeenth-century women: Giovanna Garzoni and Maria Sibylla Merian. She was captivated with the imagery as well as the meaning and intent of painters during this period in art history. Returning to New York in the mid 2000s, she set out to realise the dream she had from years before, of photographing images of natura morta’ inspired by seventeenth-century still-life painters. As she has said: ‘I have long been drawn to the seventeenth century Old Master still life painters Giovanna Garzoni, Francesco de Zurbarán, and Adriaen Coorte. I am particularly fascinated by Zurbarán’s mysterious use of dramatic light, Garzoni’s masterful compositions and colour palette, and Coorte’s unique placement of objects.’

Still Lives and Symbolism

Paulette Tavormina is a contemporary still life photographer. Referencing the seventeenth-century Old Masters that brought still life to prominence, Tavormina’s photography is a continuation, rather than a recreation, of this artistic tradition. On first glance, Tavormina’s photographs look like paintings. But the profusion of detail in the lush vegetation, fruits, flowers and insects that emerges after a longer look shows them to be scenes only producible by a camera. Tavormina sometimes spends an entire week arranging and rearranging a composition until all the elements work in perfect balance. Her tableaux are wrought into tightly bound scenes of natural harmony in which organic forms play off each other’s symbolic significance.

Tavormina’s symbolism is intensely personal and the success of her work is dependent on its rich, allegorical content. Interweaving iconography gleaned from the Old Masters with her own personal symbolism, the images allude to life cycles of birth, growth, age and death. The butterfly represents fragility and metamorphosis, the lemon is fidelity in love, and the fig is fruitfulness of knowledge. On a wider level, the scenes of plentiful food and flowers relate to the enjoyment, delight and satisfaction of passion and sensuality. Her symbolism relates to universal moments in life in which love, desire, passion and loss overpower everything else. Yet, the beauty and joy embodied in the still lifes is always fleeting as ripeness threatens to turn to decay.

Exhibitions and Awards

Tavormina has exhibited her Natura Morta series in eight solo exhibitions in Paris, New York, San Francisco and Boston. In 2010 she was awarded the Grand Prix at the International Culinaire Photography Festival in Paris for images from Natura Morta. Monacelli Press will publish her first monograph in 2016 and she will have her first solo museum exhibition at the Academy Art Museum in April 2016. She was also awarded the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2016. Her photographs are in museum collections of the Snite Museum, Norte Dame, Indiana, the Alimentarium Museum, Vevey, Switzerland and the Norton Simon Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. She lives and works in New York City.