Something I have been doing for a while now is experimenting with rotting food onto different materials. This actually started last year during a color study of organic tomatoes versus non-organic tomatoes. I had a still life of tomatoes set up in my studio that was sitting on a piece of paper. As I took forever to paint this still life, the tomatoes rotted over time. I peeled them off of the paper and noticed a beautiful little print. It was then that I had an epiphany.
I was taking a class at the time of this discovery called “Paths to Nirvana”; I have always been drawn to Buddhism and decided to explore it further. A concept that I was particularly interested in was that of impermanence. I learned about Tibetan monks and how they make intricate sand mandalas as a form of group mediation. When they have completed a mandala, they will dump the sand into a nearby stream or body of water in order to represent impermanence and non attachment. This is the idea I’m after.
I think it’s fascinating that everything is in a state of flux. Even the files on your computer can decay and change over time, especially if you neglect to open them. It’s crazy! This summer, I started rotting different fruits and vegetables onto paper in the shape of mandalas. Unlike traditional Tibetan mandala-making, I am not meditating during this process because I am not directly involved with it other than at the very beginning and very end. Rather, I am solely representing impermanence in materials; organic materials have impermanent pigments. Therefore, these prints will fade over time and eventually disappear.
The most recent rotting project I am working on involves tomatoes. I obtained organic tomatoes from a trusted friend and set them up in a specific order on canvas. I set the canvas face up on the ground outside for a month, and then peeled off the rotten tomatoes. This is the print they left behind:
I’m interested to see how this print will change and decay even further over time. Tomorrow, I will peel off my next print, which involves grocery-store bought non-organic tomatoes that have also been sitting outside for a month. This is what they looked like at week two:
I am also letting some organic tomatoes rot onto un-gessoed canvas to see how differently the pigments are soaked up.
I can’t wait to peel these off and see how crazy they look!
Below is the image I am referencing for my Claire Sherman-inspired landscape painting. I captured this scene during a tour of Farm Sanctuary this August in Watkins Glen, New York. The cow rests peacefully in the shade next to a wide open pasture. Being present in this moment was serene and gave me hope for farm animals still living in factory farms.
Learning to paint fluidly, I first took my image into Photoshop and turned up the saturation for each hue. I then mixed my paint with a decent amount of medium (Linseed oil for now, but will experiment with Impasto soon) and then blocked in the main shapes of color using as little brush strokes and blending as possible.
At this point, I am debating whether or not I will keep the cow in it’s most basic shape or if I will add more subtle detail. I am also wondering if i should integrate my receipt paper ink blots into the painting, since there are similar shapes appearing already. I am going to step away from this painting for a while until I decide what to do.
Two artists that I have been obsessed with lately are Claire Sherman and Brendan Monroe. Both painters intrigue me in their fluid approach to landscape.
Sherman is interested in the sublime, and draws inspiration from the writings of Edmund Burke, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Francois Lyotard, which discussed the sublime and the beauty of the natural world. Her main body of work consists of landscapes painted with oil on canvas. “Boulders” and “Swamp II” are two of my favorites:
Sherman’s work has directly influenced my most recent painting, which is a landscape based off of a picture I took at Farm Sanctuary this summer (will post documentation soon!). Farm Sanctuary is a place where rescued factory farm animals live out their lives in peace. During a meeting with one of my professors today, we discussed which mediums (to mix with oil paint) would best create an effect similar to that of Sherman’s. I am going to look into some sort of an Impasto medium for oil paint. My professor also pointed out that Sherman most likely uses sedimentary colors, which are colors that have larger particles which can become suspended in a medium. Some of these colors include Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre, Indian Red, Venetian Red, Asphaltum, Van Dyke Brown, Transparent Earth Orange, Transparent Earth Red, and Transparent Earth Yellow.
Brendan Monroe is an artist that I have only recently discovered. On his website, he explains, “My interpretations of the world are mostly rooted in science then executed through painting and sculpting. These are the best ways for me to communicate, but I always enjoy making other things as well.” In other sources, I’ve read that he deals with consciousness. His paintings are insanely beautiful and I cannot wait to study more of his work.
“Factory Farming” is a painting that I spent much of my summer working on. The painting is composed of meat receipts and acrylic paint and represents how consumers are helping to build factory farm landscapes by buying into the system.
The first part of the painting I focused on was the sky. This happened by dipping a palette knife into a bucket of off-white house paint and gesturally painting clouds, mixing blue as I went. This part of the painting stayed the same from beginning to end. Another beginning step was mapping out where the factory farm buildings stood using frog tape. The scene, apart from the sky, is based on an actual photograph I found through Google.
The next step was tiling the roofs. This was a long and intricate process involving folding, gluing, and cutting many receipts together.
After finishing the buildings, I focused on the texture of the surrounding area. To achieve the rough look of the land in the reference picture, I layered and ripped off receipts until they looked right. I also experimented with getting the receipts wet with glue and using them to print ink onto different areas.
The last step was painting the background. In the reference photo, there were actually more factory farms in the background. I wanted to make sure I put these in, as to represent reality.
I submitted “Factory Farm” to the Clifton Cultural Art Center’s annual “Golden Ticket Exhibition” and made it into the show! The painting is for sale and will be in the exhibition until October 3rd.
I am going to continue exploring these landscapes and see where they take me.