That Painting Just Said ‘Eat Me!’

27 Nov 2014

This being the day after Thanksgiving, we celebrate leftovers in my house—and pretty much all other activities that result in eating. So I thought, why mess with family tradition? I'm devoting today's column to one subject matter I rarely cover in my work: food!

But it isn't just any painting of a donut or orange that catches my eye. (Okay, the paintings of donuts are always going to catch my eye. I can't help it.) But there are a few paintings featuring edibles that have taught me something about still life painting that goes beyond how to present yummy looking noshes.  

Andrew Lattimore succeeds in making this painting not about the food. Instead, as the viewer, I focus on the unfolding narrative and the emotions it evokes in me: feelings of comfort and ease as I imagine the warm cozy kitchen where this morning meal is taking place. It's a moment frozen in time--the steam is still rising from the coffee mug--and that reinforces the immediacy of the scene. 

Morning Croissant by Andrew Lattimore, oil painting, 8 x 10.
Morning Croissant by Andrew Lattimore,
oil painting, 8 x 10.

Marilyn Minter's massive (this one is 108 x 180 inches) hyper-real paintings are suggestive and carnal, grotesque and strangely abstracted. The painting's shapes, colors, and textural variety—the smushed flesh of the cheek and slick tongue in contrast to the bubbly effervescent look of the Pop Rock candy and watery condensation on the glass—reinforce the nonfigurative quality of the work, so at first glance I'm not sure what I'm looking at. That's a subversive contradiction considering how "of the body" the painting is. And then I start to realize what I'm seeing. Weird! Suggestive! Uncomfortable! But not easily forgotten.

Pop Rocks by Marilyn Minter, enamel on metal, 108 x 180.
Pop Rocks by Marilyn Minter, enamel on metal, 108 x 180.

What I love about Wayne Thiebaud's paintings is how fanciful they seem and yet how accessible they really are. The artist painted food that you could find at any bakery or grocery store, but it is the ways he arranges and executes his still life set-ups that make them feel somehow larger than life. Rows of little cakes on white platforms—sounds simple enough—and yet bright colors and the subtle tilt of the objects toward the viewer make it almost seem like they are being presented to you as a gift or prize.

Cakes by Wayne Thiebaud, oil painting.
Cakes by Wayne Thiebaud, oil painting.

Before your next meal becomes your next art inspiration, take a look at all the non-perishable resources we have for our Black Friday Sale. You'll get yourself set with inspirations of the non-edible kind for your art making during the holiday season and beyond with 50% off everything and $5.99 eBook downloads at the North Light Store and $5.99 for video downloads from Artists Network TV. Enjoy!


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