Haynes Galleries will open “The Art of the Still Life,” a wide-ranging exhibit featuring the work of 20 contemporary artists, with a reception Friday, Sept. 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. The show will be on view through Sept. 29 at Haynes Galleries, 91 Main St./Route 1.

What could possibly be exciting about a bowl of eggs? A bouquet? A lemon peel? In the hands of these contemporary masters, quite a bit. While the genre is as old as paint itself, this exhibit of watercolors and oils puts the “life” in still life.

For example, Michael Theise approaches the trompe l’oeil genre with tongue firmly in cheek, giving the still-life treatment to objects that are anything but precious — an Etch-a-Sketch, a vintage board game, a rusty horseshoe. There are plenty of visual gags, plenty of inside jokes, and art history buffs will appreciate his nods to Rembrandt Peale and Rene Magritte.

Deborah Bigeleisen offers a macro view of a rose’s inner petals is lush and sensuous, layer upon layer of creamy pink, whereas Lisa Breslow’s “Flowers in a Glass Vase II” is loose and textural, a celebration of color and light. Other florals, such as Richard Murdock’s exquisite clutch of lilacs, are tightly rendered. And Nancy Depew offers an interplay of shadow and light that evokes the Old Masters, while feeling completely fresh.

Though Yin Yong Chun’s canvases are full of riches — overflowing bowls of fruit, cut crystal vases, lavishly patterned china — they are anything but excessive; his work incorporates the best elements of classic Asian and European art. Among the exhibition’s highlights is a selection of watercolors by Karen Horn, who lives and paints in Northern California, where her garden is an endless inspiration for her watercolors. She paints slowly, meticulously, with a surgeon’s precision; as a result, she completes only six to eight paintings a year.

“The Art of Still Life” showcases some of the finest American realist painters working today. These works are not only a testament to the craft, they’re an invitation to find meaning in the simplest and most beautiful of objects.

Haynes Galleries hours are Mondays though Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information about this exhibit or to schedule a private viewing, call 354-0605 or 615-429-1727; or visit haynesgalleries.com.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.