Bella Wattles

A Slice of (Still) Life

<em>Calle Lilies & Pomegranates Party</em>, 2021, oil on wood panel.
Calle Lilies & Pomegranates Party, 2021, oil on wood panel.

After being laid off from her film production job in late 2020, Bella Wattles found herself—like so many of us during the pandemic—at home. To express her newfound feelings of domesticity, she began painting for the first time since high school. “I feel like since I’ve been home a lot, I have fruit and flowers around my house,” she says. “I paint whatever is around me.”

Wattles normally works on canvas with deep, rich oils that permit her to capture the bright fruits and earthy plants of her environs. But for her juiciest works, she often turns to acrylics, which she applies to clear, acrylic substrates rescued from her new job at a printing and framing shop. “My boss wasn’t sure what to do with these leftover scraps of acrylic,” she says. “I thought it would be a cool way to reuse material. I had no idea people would be interested in them!”

  • Breakfast BB, In collaboration with Of The Soil Agency (Melissa Schwimmer and Alex Gabrielle), 2021 , oil on wood panel.

Since the 17th century, still-life artists have chosen organic subjects to remind viewers of life’s ephemerality: fruit rots, flowers wilt, and banquets spoil. Often, to drive home their point, these artists would write tempus fugit (“time flies”) somewhere on the canvas. But Wattles’s depictions of half-peeled pomegranates and orange slices, while suggesting similar themes, remind us of the scent and seasonality of fresh citrus zest and plump pomegranate seeds. She takes pleasure, she says, in turning waste “into something people treasure in their homes.”

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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