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.
Former Special Forces soldier Louis Jones Jr. stole onto a military base in San Angelo, Texas. He was looking for his estranged wife, also an Army officer, with whom he had violently fought earlier in the week. Instead of his wife, he found Pvt. Tracie McBride. He forced McBride, at gunpoint, to leave the base and, after raping her in his apartment, took her to a desolate area 30 miles outside of town where he beat her over the head with a tire iron until she was dead. He left her body under a bridge. Tracie McBride was 19 years old.
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.