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Butterflies and Orchids, 1997-98
Oil on canvas, 34 x 27
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Eastman

Butterflies and other insects were common elements in Dutch still lifes, where they functioned on both aesthetic and symbolic levels. They provided a beautiful shape and color value and were symbolic of resurrection, pointing to the eternal things that supersede, and are more important than, the temporal things of this life. They were often painted in contrast to flies, moths and other insects that signified the decay and transience of temporal things. Gjertson uses the butterflies as beautiful spots of color and value—to provide harmony and balance and as a symbol pointing to the Eternal One who created the beautiful, but transient, things in the world. The scarf may be seen for both its aesthetic value—as a pretty spot of color and value — and for its symbolic value alluding to the attraction of temporal riches that often keep people from seeing things of eternal significance.


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