Rotting Tomatoes

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:

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Organic tomato print after one month of sitting outside

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Organic tomato print detail

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Organic tomato print detail

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Organic tomato print detail

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:

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Store-bought nonorganic tomatoes – week 2

I am also letting some organic tomatoes rot onto un-gessoed canvas to see how differently the pigments are soaked up.

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Organic tomatoes on un-gessoed canvas – week 2

I can’t wait to peel these off and see how crazy they look!

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