“LaChapelle explores the vanity of life and beauty, alluding to the life cycle: from birth to death”
The title is a quotation of the poem “Hamatreya” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in which flowers are the earth’s laughter at the arrogance of human beings who believe they can rule the earth, although they themselves are transient and must return to it.
Whilst LaChapelle shows an explicit compositional affinity to Baroque floral still life, he transfers the genre from painting to photography. The artist employs art historical visual traditions, but he also translates them into visual metaphor of and for our time. On second glance the viewer will discover objects of contemporary society in the blooming and fading flower arrangements: burning cigarettes, newspapers from yesterday, old mobile phones, medical devices, a burning American flag, tins, collages or throw away dinnerware. These are the metaphors of vanity in our era of an affluent though seemingly troubled society. The often bizarre and excessive symbolical imagery does not fail to remind us however, as in the traditional vanitas, to follow our virtues and to celebrate life before it‘s over.
‘Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds: And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough. Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs; Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet, Clear of the grave.’