The ‘Last Meal on Death Row’ prints depict carefully arranged still-lives of the meals chosen by death row prisoners on the last day before their execution.
For the series, Collishaw restated a number of - often intriguing - last suppers and arranged them in the style of 17th century Vanitas paintings, a manner traditionally used to reflect on the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death.
Whilst aesthetically pleasing in the most classical sense, these photographs reveal below the surface a shocking confrontation with the imminence of death, and give insight into the desires and fears of the to be executed. Humble and mundane foods like cheeseburgers or ice cream take on a new poignancy, as the pictures become surrogate portraits of the prisoners.
The multi-layered yet subtle way in which the message is conveyed is characteristic for Collishaw’s oeuvre.
Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen, a Sinclair gas station employee on the evening of July 19, 1976. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel manager at City Center Inn. He murdered these people even though they complied with his demands. Gilmore was executed by firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. The night before, Gilmore had requested an all-night gathering of friends and family at the prison mess hall. On the evening before his execution, he was served a last meal of steak, potatoes, milk and coffee; he consumed only the milk and coffee. His uncle claims to have smuggled in three small bottles of Jack Daniels
View all Last Meal on Death Row prints here.
Born in Nottingham, England in 1966, Mat Collishaw studied at Goldsmiths College of Art from 1986 to 1989, along with a number of other prominent international British artists. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Freeze in 1988, and Modern Medicine in 1990, and has had many solo exhibitions in the UK and internationally.
His work appears in important public collections including Tate, London and Centre Pompidou, Paris. He is represented by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York and Haunch of Venison, Zurich. Mat Collishaw lives and works in London.