Jennifer Lanski
Petroleum Objects Series
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“Petroleum Camera”     Silverpoint on prepared paper and frame     4.5” × 6.5”     2006

“Petroleum Objects” is a series of drawings of objects that are in made, at least in part, from petroleum. The objects depicted are common, inexpensive, and contemporary items; the material used to make the drawings (silverpoint) is precious, old-fashioned, and therefore unusual in contemporary art. The idea behind the work is that as petroleum becomes more scarce or more expensive to extract and its price consequently increases, currently inexpensive and ubiquitous items will correspondingly become scare, expensive, or be made from other materials and therefore disappear in their current form.

As the work was created at a time when oil prices were gradually increasing but had not yet reached levels of even $80 per barrel, the old-fashioned look of the work portends a future period when such a precious representation of these objects would be more appropriate; like family photos of long-dead ancestors. As a further twist, the drawings are framed in a silver-colored plastic frame; hence a contemporary, inexpensive, ubiquitous petroleum product (the plastic frame) physically encloses the nostalgic image of an eventually extinct petroleum-based object, and will be a present reminder of petroleum's once-common presence once this petroleum-scarce future has arrived. The silver color of the frame references the actual elemental silver that creates the image; at the moment the work was created, the actual silver was more costly than the cheap plastic frame. At a future point in time, this inequality could be reversed. The silver color (but not material) of the frame also subtly references the practice of framing valued art in gilt frames and this potential eventual shift in value between the precious silver and the cheap plastic.

A selection of the “Petroleum Objects” drawings has been exhibited in Los Angeles.