Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fast Food/Still Life

This painting, "Fast Food/Still Life," has been an idea I have had for quite some time.  It has been lingering in my mind for a little over a year.  I decided to act and follow through the idea and realize the picture.  I wanted to treat the subject like a classical still life painting, and focus on the objects.  I chose fast food because it is so ubiquitous and not something that would normally be treated to a still life, plus I loved all of the hidden extras that fast food comes with (globalization, marketing, obesity, overfarming, immigrants, science, genetics, capitalism, etc...)

Here is what actually happened:
The concept was to visit McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts and Burger King and buy the items that are targeted at children.  So a Happy Meal, a Kid's Meal (plus the toys), a 6 pack of Munchins, and one burger from each place (found on their "Dollar Menu"), were set upon a table and I painted them.  All food was unwrapped and put down on the table exactly as it comes out of the packaging. In total, I spent $12.  All the food purchased is visible in the still life (minus about 8 ketchup packs). 

Following a page from "Super Size Me," I accepted every extra they threw my way (like sauces, and ketchup, and salt and pepper) and I got a ton.

Even though my intention was (and still is) to show the horror of the food, and to display it exactly as it is served - no glamour or fancy product photography - I became absolutely fascinated by the color and textures in this "food", and quickly became more interested in painting exactly what I saw.  It became an American Landscape.  The color of McDonald's french fries are golden and Burger King's are more translucent, chicken mcnuggets are golden green.  burger buns are orange - but the cheese is even MORE orange -  the wax paper is a visual treat of reflected blues, oranges, greens, purples and reds.  The entire picture was an exercise in texture and color relationships.  The food/packaging is remarkably reflective and the colors were found everywhere.  the munchkins were very light - mostly air, and sparkled.

For those who care how it ended, ALL the food became hard after being out for one hour.  All smells dissipated after half an hour (no match for turpentine and oil paint) and by the next day, of course, it looked exactly the same, and did so for the rest of the week, and then I had to throw it out in disgust.  None of the food was ingested.  it was all given to the garbage.  Although I did drink the Apple Juice afterword, but don't tell anyone.

In an age of Fast/Immediate/Now, I wanted to slow down and look at what we as a society are doing, what we target at children, and what passes for food.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this painting, and its juxtaposition against the paintings of the baroque period of lush and expensive foods that portrayed the wealth of its commissioners. In searching for food still lifes to show my art ed classes, I find this as a great resource for comparing art from long ago to now and all of the cultural and societal comparisons that can be made. I also appreciate the fact that you said, " I became absolutely fascinated by the color and textures in this "food", and quickly became more interested in painting exactly what I saw." This is what I wanted the students to focus on, for technicality sake. Art is a tool to express and communicate, as well as exploration of media and techniques.