Contemporary realism still life painting
Kristen Valle Yann, "Blush Arrangement," 2021, oil on panel, 12 x 9 in., collection of Sabin Howard and Tracy L. Slatton

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

Kristen Valle Yann’s (b. 1997) body of work explores the sometimes difficult and confounding experience of being human, leaving behind suggestions of hope and light. Every portrait, still life, and landscape whispers a gentle reminder that, although our time on earth is fleeting and we often may feel alone in our questioning, there is still meaning to be found in the simplest moments of life.

“My world is one of quiet recollections,” the artist shares about some of the subjects she chooses to paint. “Modest commonplaces, window-lit rooms, and unfolded linens sprawled on an empty bed. The somber remnants of dawn, cascading its light onto decrepit telephone poles. There is beauty in stillness. It’s in this very space that I am stirred to awareness of time passing.”

Yann was born and raised in a rural town in Florida, where she developed an early appreciation for nature. In 2018 she earned a B.F.A. from Florida State University, but, feeling that it did not provide her with adequate training, she decided shortly after graduation to spend a year as a resident artist at East Oaks Studio in North Carolina, painting alongside gifted artists such as Louis Carr and Alex Venezia.

Yann attributes much of her attention to detail, curiosity, and appreciation for beauty to her upbringing. “As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, I was raised to be thankful for the little things we easily take for granted,” she explains. “Often gratitude rises to awareness in moments of stillness. For me, painting creates that space. It invites me to be still, look intently, and take in the colors, shapes, and beauty before me.”

One of her many paintings that inspire an equally contemplative gaze from the viewer is “Blush Arrangement,” a scene of pillowy pink flowers at various stages of life, brushed by the loveliest touches of light. Sculptor Sabin Howard, who collects Yann’s work, commissioned her to paint it as an ode to the Old Masters. “I’m very intrigued by Dutch still lifes, as they touch on themes of vanitas and memento mori, which are common in my work,” Yann says.

One reason the cycle of life recurs in Yann’s work is because she is fascinated by the passage of time, the meaning of life, and what we leave behind.

Connect with the artist at

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine (subscribe here).