The artist also uses several devices to deny our natural tendency to segregate background landscape and foreground still life. A progressive definition of the image, from loosely brushed landscape to an almost photo-realistic treatment of the foreground objects requires that we regard foreground and background as a single perspective of diminishing focus. Although, too, the still life is superimposed upon the landscape, the artist leaves considerable ambiguity regarding the line of demarcation and, at times, deliberately blurs the boundary between the two. In Cakes, Candies, Snow, for example, we are given no reference to a window frame, and the white of the snow outside continues forward into the white of the napkins, blurring the distinction between inside and outside.
This blurring of the demarcation between inside and outside – between landscape and still life – is important because Timm’s paintings establish not so much a contrast between the two genre as a progression through them. It is a progression through different kinds of artiface or through various stages of representation. In Blue Plate Special, for example, the background shows us a rich summer landscape with wildflowers blooming in a natural hedgerow. As we move into the foreground, the flowers and fruits have become artfully arranged in bowls and vases on a table. And the object closest in our view, the table cloth upon which the still life rests, presents us a stylized, graphic representation of these “fruits” of summer.
This is a progression we observe in virtually all of Timm’s paintings. (In one, the movement is given humorous point in an arrangement of natural peanuts resting on the comic strip “peanuts.”) The relationship of landscape to still life in her work is, at base, a movement from natural fact through various stages of human artifact. In her more complex works, the still life contains not only visual but symbolic ‘representations’: binoculers and an empty cage in a painting about birds or upturned glasses and an extinguished candle in a painting set at dusk. Here we might say, using semiological terms, that the progression is from the natural referent through different types of visual signs, the painting ultimately a study of signification itself. Whatever the ostensible ‘subject,’ therefore, Timm’s compositions are ‘about’ composition, and her representational art serves to comment upon the very nature of representation.