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The Cover
February 20, 2002

After Leslie Left

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(7):814. doi:10.1001/jama.287.7.814

Daily life is made up mostly of the ordinary: ordinary time, ordinary objects, ordinary people, feelings, events. The Dutch masters knew this well: in thousands of still-life paintings of ordinary objects they have recorded the daily life of almost the entire 17th century. The contemporary American Realist painter Janet Fish (1938-    ) also knows the poetry of the ordinary: in her hands, time, objects, people, feelings are raised to the level of the holy. After Leslie Left (cover ), for example, is a table-top display of everyday objects—cleaning supplies, glassware, magazines, keys, grocery coupons, food, foliage, half a cup of coffee—such as might be found in any contemporary American kitchen. Yet done up in a froth of pastel colors and transparent forms, and placed against a background that stirs with spring, they also stir the soul. There are no human figures, yet the painting speaks—sings might be a better word—of human presence, a presence no less diminished for its physical absence. And finally, in perhaps the most surprising twist of all, neither the objects nor the billowing curtain announcing spring, nor even the sense of a presence, is the proper subject of the painting. The actual subject is light. With the uncanny realism of the Dutch masters, Fish uses it to define forms; like the Impressionists, she also shatters it into shards of pure color.

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