A few morsels about six artists whose muse is food
Food has long been the subject of paintings and photographs. 16th Century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo made a name for himself painting faces made of food and flowers; Andy Warhol found inspiration in a can of Campbell’s Soup; and a basket of fruit has been the object of many a beginner art class assignment. But some artists find that playing with the food itself is much more rewarding. Surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer’s dancing steaks in his short film Meat Love are a prime example of how bizarrely moving our food can be when it develops a personality.
Here is a selection of modern artists whose meals motivate them to create.
As a woman who likes to cook, Ilona Staples became curious about what goes into the food she eats. This led her to become very conscious of additives, to take up vegetarianism, and to begin growing her own vegetables. In 2002 her personal fascination with food spilled over into her artistic endeavours. Her first work using edibles was a wall she covered in molasses. Like most of the artists featured here, a big reason behind her use of food is to comment on consumption. Currently based in Toronto, Staples shows her work across the country and around the world. One of her exhibits, entitled Cram, focused on the excess production and consumption of food.
For Marina Malvada food is an attractive medium to work with because she loves the idea of people interacting with her art. And how much more intimate can they get with her art than to consume it. Her food-related ideas started with a fantasy about filling rich people’s pools with cream soda, but much like her other foody ideas, she felt this was a bit too crazy to pull-off. Then it finally came to her when she was making a mold to cast a skull sculpture and she heard that there was food grade silicon. It was then that she had a flash of inspiration, chocolate skulls. This was in early October 2005, and over the past year she has perfected a blend of white and milk chocolate to give her craniums a realistic bone colour.
Maria Legault is a performance artists who has exhibited her work across Canada. She has covered her face in bubble gum, eaten crumbs off of the floor and piled gummy creatures on her face. One of her most notable works is called Free Sugar where she used colourful icing to fill cracks in sidewalks, walls, pipes; anywhere that needed fixing, and a little excitement. She says she uses sweets in her art as a means to draw people in to her work. “I find that if I lure people into my practice through seductive material, I can then expose taboo subjects to them, so it’s a bit like the candy house in Hansel and Gretel,” she says.
The inventor of the Cloaca, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, has shown his “shit machine” all over the world. The Cloaca is an artificial digestive system that needs to be fed and that produces feces similar to the consistency of human waste as a by-product. The waste that comes out of the machine on a conveyor belt (in some models) is sold on the Cloaca website in a clear box. The website suggests, through very obviously fake testimonies, that owning a piece of Cloaca poo will do everything from enhancing your sexuality to helping you achieve spiritual growth. Truthfully, the Cloaca is fascinating because it breaks down food the way the human stomach would, using enzymes and acids, but the poo, while impressive, probably won’t change your life.
Jamie Marraccini loves gum. He loves it so much that he can’t bear to part with it when he’s done chewing. It’s a waste. So, in the interest of hanging on to that which he holds dear, Marraccini spits out his used gum and uses it to create art. He started in the late 1980s, and over the years, in true D.I.Y. fashion, he began teaching others to make their own gum art. Chewbynumbers.com offers kits containing a variety of different brands of gum that work together to make the suggested pictures. Apparently it takes 19 pieces of Bubblicious and 3 pieces of Carefree to make a tulip.
Based in New York, Saxton Freymann started his career in art as a painter. In the late 1990s he began working with fruits and vegetables, sculpting them into animals and faces. One can only imagine the day he walked through the produce isle and the kiwis and kumquats came to life. Using an exacto knife, Freymann gives personality to produce creating a dog from a banana, a bird from a pear and a car from a cucumber. All his materials are organic, even down to the black-eyed pea eyes and kernel corn teeth. Though not overly indie (he has a book deal with Scholastic) Freymann’s work is too cute to leave off the list.