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:

Organic tomato print after one month of sitting outside
Organic tomato print detail
Organic tomato print detail
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:

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.

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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