FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 21.

Still Life with Fruit. Caravaggio c.1605.
Said I remember when we used to sit in the government yard in Trenchtown. Yeah!
And then Georgie would make the fire lights, I say, log wood burnin' through the nights. Yeah!
Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, I say, of which I'll share with you. Yeah!
My feet is my only carriage and so I've got to push on through.

Lyrics and music: Bob Marley and Vincent Ford. © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group

Out walking the other day, listening to music, and Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry‘ live at the Lyceum 1975 hits my playlist shuffle. I’ve always loved this version of the song but this time, in context with my FMP project work, I’m struck by the hospitality within it. It sums up much of what is at the heart of what I’m attempting to say in the work: “of which I’ll share with you”. It’s a beautiful sentiment. Made more poignant at the moment as we are compromised in terms of who we can share food with by the Covid pandemic.

Food, and the practices that surround it, have been a huge part of my personal and family history. I’m the son of an immigrant chef and restaurateur. But even with that level of familiarity, it’s easy to forget the presence of it in art and culture. And yet it is there from our very beginning. After all, the earliest cave paintings depict hunting – a means to get food.

Cave painting from Serra da Capivara, Brazil depicting a hunt approx. 25, 000 years ago.

The sensuous nature of food, especially fruit and vegetables, makes it a strong subject for visual representation. It becomes a symbol for the desires, concerns, and motivations of the maker. In the painting by Caravaggio above, there is a seductive, hedonistic power. It’s there in the amount of food shown. In the sliced fruits spilling their seed. In the similarity between the skin of the gourds to human flesh and muscle (something that Caravaggio is infamous for).

from Cookbook. Dorothy Iannone 1969.

This inherent eroticism in food plays out in Dorothy Iannone’s Cookbook (1969). A statement of creativity and a statement of attraction and love to her muse (artist Dieter Roth). Across countless vibrant pages, there is an immediacy in the interplay of food, sex, domesticity, and love. Recipes intermingle with personal thoughts, dialogue, and erotic drawings. As Shelby Shaw says: ‘If the kitchen has traditionally been delegated to women as their workplace, Iannone proves that a modern woman’s kitchen extends into the atelier, the bedroom, and the imagination’.

The power of food presents itself in other ways too. For example, it has the capacity to highlight socio-economic divides. Something that has become more problematic in recent years. The rise of food banks a testament to increasing food poverty. The current pandemic situation triggered a fear of lack associated with food that we haven’t seen since the days of rationing. With empty shelves in supermarkets as people stockpiled dry goods and tinned foods. Lately, we have seen Marcus Rashford’s campaign for state-funded free school meals for children hit the headlines and cause a U-turn in government policy.

Despite this though, food’s ultimate characteristics are pleasure and joy. That is both its blessing and its curse. It’s what food writer and broadcaster Grace Dent shows in her book Hungry, a funny and poignant examination of a life lived with food as a constant companion. Almost any food is fair game for pleasure and a simple fried egg sandwich can outshine any pretentious cordon bleu ‘art project’ (Dent, 2020, pg. 296), especially when it’s shared with people you love.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Bedworth, C. (2018). Don’t Play with Your Food! Unless It’s Art. Available at: https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/dont-play-with-your-food-unless-its-art/ [Accessed 31 Oct. 2020].

Dent, S. 2020. Hungry. London, Mudlark.

Dorothy Iannone <http://www.airdeparis.com/artists/dorothy-iannone> [Accessed 31st October].

Martinique, E. (2016). The Fascination with Food in Art History. Available at: https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/food-in-art-history[Accessed 31 Oct. 2020].

Rogers, K, 2020. What did our food look like hundreds of years ago? Art history may have the answers, CNN Style, <https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/artgenetics-food-history-study-wellness-scn/index.html> [Accessed 21 November 2020].

Shaw, S. 2019. Dorothy Iannone: A Cookbook, The Brooklyn Rail, Available at: <https://brooklynrail.org/2019/06/art_books/Dorothy-Iannone-A-Cookbook> [Accessed 21 November 2020].