The original was created using oil on gessoed Masonite board
"Here’s a still life of the most valuable thing in my apartment right now. All we can do is the best with what we’ve got right now. Everyone keep washing your hands. Stay home if you can. Quit hoarding the damn toilet paper. “The Last Roll”
-Tweet from Julia Maddalina, March 17, 2020.
A professional artist since the age of twelve, Julia Maddalina attended the Cleveland Institute of Art where she studied Biomedical illustration. Like many artist weathering the shelter in place orders, Maddalina is creating Coronavirus-inspired artworks like The Last Roll. Here, she presents an ordinary roll of toilet paper now elevated to the status of worthy still life object.
While seemingly ordinary, toilet paper has played a giant-sized roll (pun intended!) in people’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. As shelf after toilet-paperless shelf is shown on the news, anyone who has lived through this pandemic certainly understands the valuable commodity that toilet paper has become! No longer just something you encounter daily, it has become the unwitting symbol of Covid-19.
Surprisingly, a simple Google search will prove that the subject of toilet paper in art has a long history. The difference is that a new meaning may now be applied given the fact that the current status of this ordinary household item has significantly changed.
The act of painting is something that is inherently autobiographical – a continual process of refining vision which moves us towards a new understandings about ourselves and the world around us. In an exaggerated way, and with a touch of humor, Maddalina gives toilet paper its proper due while also sharing a piece of her own experience. The viewer is invited to make whatever meaning they may find as they bring their own perception and experience to the painting. What do you think the artist was trying express? What was your initial reaction to this piece? Do you think your reaction would have been different before the Covid19 outbreak?
In additional to this Corona virus themed piece, Maddalina has also created a touching tribute to the front-line healthcare workers in a series of portraits honoring them for their service. She writes, “This series is inspired by the events taking place on a global scale during the CoVid19 Pandemic. I began this series to honor and bring to light the healthcare professionals on the frontline of this crisis.”
To see her series, Portraits of the Frontline, visit: https://jmaddalina.myportfolio.com/portraits-of-the-frontline.
* still life – One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead. In the hierarchy of genres (or subject types) for art established in the seventeenth century by the French Academy, still life was ranked at the bottom – fifth after history painting, portraiture, genre painting (scenes of everyday life) and landscape. Still life and landscape were considered lowly because they did not involve human subject matter.
Walter Scott, The New Yorker, April 20, 2020.
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-Janelle Graves, Art Historian / Museum Educator