Death and the Maiden

Facing our fear of the unknown with beautiful and bizarre paintings from the collection of Keryn Redstone

Words by
Julia Price
Published on
April 08, 2020
Joseph Weinreb Don't Fear the Reaper oil on panel painting
Joseph Weinreb, Don't Fear the Reaper

Death, clad in a tricorn hat and coattails, plays fiddle as a maiden dances with her cat and two mice. Behind them, a fallen candle ignites the curtains — the dance is short. Employing the motif of Death and the Maiden, Joseph Weinreb’s Don’t Fear the Reaper entreats the viewer to face mortality and live in the moment. If you can’t outrun Death you may as well enjoy the dance.

Capsule Auctions presents this along with other beautiful and bizarre paintings from the collection of Keryn Redstone. Ranging from Weinreb’s haunting fantasies, to the portraits of Edith Lebeau and Carla Secco, this collection of illustrative art dives directly into themes of fantasy and the unknown.

Conor Langton, The Royal Tenenbaums

Keryn, a sculptor’s daughter, says that while she has been around art most of her life, her interest in collecting was sparked when she moved to Los Angeles to spend time with her grandfather, media mogul Sumner Redstone. With his longtime companion Manuela Herzer guiding her through the Los Angeles art scene, Keryn began to see works that were “vocal and unique,” and was impressed by artists who were reinventing timeless motifs.

As she began to collect, she developed relationships with galleries and artists, such as with Weinreb and his wife, proprietors of Haven Gallery. She was moved not only by the quality of the work in their program but also by their mentorship of emerging artists. Also, the dancing cat in Don’t Fear the Reaper? “They had just lost one of their cats,” Keryn adds of the Weinrebs “and the cat ended up in the painting.”

Edith Lebeau's The Search for a Loving Home (2017) and Carla Secco's, Nola Preziosa (2017)

As her taste developed, she was drawn to work with a strong sense of color; deep blues, brilliant reds, and shimmering golds. She was also compelled by references to films, fairy tales, and apocalyptic futures. But most importantly, Keryn chose pieces that are unafraid to stare down the scary stuff. Successful artists, she notes, “address their fears and demolish them.”

Well featured in Keryn’s collection is Canadian Edith Lebeau. Keryn was attracted to Lebeau’s use of blues and the elements of house and home. “And she does these beautiful ropes!,” Keryn notes “I’m obsessed with them.” The portraits are intricate, grounded in details like a model’s freckles, but the juxtaposition of added surreal elements, abstracts them. The viewer is asked what parts of their homes they carry with them, what ties bind them.

Carla Secco, Nonostante Tutto (2017)

Carla Secco’s paintings exercise a darkly comic cheekiness, sending up her subjects while paying tribute to Rococo. In Nola Preziosa, a woman dressed for the 18th century sits against an ornate, red backdrop, seemingly oblivious to her cat, who holds the dog by a string. “I love the reds in that one,” Keryn says. Nonostante Tutto is a fantasy of an outsized goldfish looking adoringly toward an elegant woman, despite being held out of water and stabbed by forks—not to mention the slice of lemon the woman wears like a tiara.

Hardest to part with for Keryn are Sandra Yagi’s paintings. In Death and Nautilus, a skeleton regards the ancient mollusk in a fishbowl and in Self Portrait as a Jester, Yagi depicts herself in cap and bells contemplating a large animal skull. Like depictions of Hamlet and the skull of Yorick, both works play on Death and the Maiden’s most similar motif, Momento Mori, and beseech the viewer to consider life beyond infinite jest and excellent fancy and to carefully consider her own mortality.

Sandra Yagi's Self Portrait as a Jester from 2019, and 2017s Death and Nautilus

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