Lines and Colors art blog

John Morra
Contemporary American painter John Morra paints elegantly refined still life canvasses of both common and unusual subjects.

His website has galleries of his work in categories like Still Life, Food, Mixers and “Mertz” as well as Plein Air landscapes and Portraits.

Morra says in his artists’ statement that he was influenced by Vermeer, and in particular, Chardin. The influence of the latter is evident in his paintings of crockery, aged metal pans and similar Chardin-like subjects found in the “Still Life” section.

He also has a fascination with the forms, colors and textures of food mixers, particularly those that appear to be from the mid 20th century.

My favorite compositions of his, however, are to be found in the section he calls “Mertz”. I don’t know the derivation of the word (though it seems rather Dada-like), but these are wonderful paintings of complex arrangements of mechanical, electrical and wooden or metal objects that include old fashioned light bulbs, vacuum tubes, glass power line insulators, plumb bobs, vacuum cleaner parts, wooden spindles, musical instruments, funnels, kitchen utensils and, of course, mixers.

He often sets these arrangements against skies or suggestions of skies, presenting them as landscapes of still life objects, and portrays them as bathed in soft light or in muted overcast.

You might call the subjects “found objects” or “junk”, I call them the contents of my parents basement, and I love them for that as well for his beautiful handling of the subjects.

Morra has taught at the New York Academy and the School of Visual Art in New York, and, though I don’t know his current involvement, he is listed among the instructors for The Grand Central Academy of Art, the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn and Oyster Bay, Long Island, and the Gage Academy of Art, Seattle. The latter site has a more extensive bio than his own site.

There is also a brief bio and a gallery of his work on the website of the Eleanor Ettinger Gallery.


5 responses to “John Morra”

  1. Mtowery Avatar

    Might “Mertz” be related to Kurt Schwitters’s term Merz (a collage of found objects; psychological collage)?

  2. OK, I’ll grant him the connections to Vermeer and Chardin. But Morra, with his edgy industrial-strength approach to still-life painting, seems to be a direct artistic descendant of the mid-century American art director and painter Walter Murch who managed to create still-life arrangements with cathode tubes and micrometers and portray them as mysterious, menacing or magical in the process. Sometimes all at once. Both artists have a deadpan way of dramatizing still life compositions by taking the viewer to the eye-level of the supporting surface.

  3. I love John Morra’s paintings, they are magical indeed. They also hold up in person beautifully with rich color and surfaces, enough to make a paint lover drool!

  4. John Morra has done something very unique with his Mertzs series. They are not about objects simply well painted or objects as reminders of the good things life offers some. Not to say I don’t enjoy that kind of painting, but Morras Mertzs take on a psychological tone. The objects seem have personality traits. Sometimes groups of objects hint to some ambiguous narrative. They strangely redefine the possibilities of still-life.