Category: art

“Beiti” evokes history’s heady scent and life’s impermance

Detail of ‘Beiti’ by Laurent Mareschal. Photo by Tami Notsani, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Marie Cini, via TimeOut London

A couple weeks ago I posted about a Japanese TV program in which celebrity contestants guessed whether or not household items were made of candy (and then took a bite to find out). As a followup, I thought I’d share a recent post from Twilley Nicola of Edible Geography that spotlights another transformation of foodstuffs into household goods. In it, she considers a fascinating artwork—a “tile” floor covering made entirely of ground spices—that is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As detailed at the exhibit’s website, the artist, Laurent Mareschal,

is concerned with the impermanence of our lives. He often uses Palestinian sources for his work, acknowledging the particular impermanence of Palestinian lives. His large, ephemeral, site-specific works draw on everyday materials such as spices, soap and food. With these he creates patterns based on, among other things, the decorative floor tiles in old houses. His work is deliberately fragile, and Mareschal expects his audiences to participate in transforming it – for example, by eating the food.

The work is part of an exhibit of finalists for the Jameel Prize, “an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. Its aim is to explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.”

As Twilley describes,

Laurent Mareschal’s “Beiti” is a carpet made of spice, carefully sieved through stencils into tiled patterns inspired by Arabic geometry. I saw it last month at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum…. In the exhibit’s low light, the carpet seems to float above the black floor, warming up its corner with a slightly fuzzy glow and a faint gingery, spicy scent. In an accompanying video, Mareschal, whose work typically deals impermanence and, in particular, the Palestinian condition, explains that the spice tiles are a deliberate play between ephemerality and the almost subliminal longevity of olfactory memory.

Head here for Twilley’s full post (thoughtful and fascinating, per usual). Also check out the video that Twilley mentions of Mareschal discussing his piece and demonstrating the painstaking technique he used, and then have a look at this time-lapse video that compresses days of work to create the V&A installation into less than a minute.

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Bringing back the Marshall strawberry

Marshall Strawberry Art

Leah Gauthier at work on Marshal strawberry art. Photo by Annie Corrigan/WFIU Public Radio [Indiana Public Media], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thanks to Civil Eats, I recently learned about efforts to return to production a delicious but fragile strawberry. Arielle Golden reports,

Five years ago, Slow Foods’ “Most Endangered Foods” list included the Marshall Strawberry. The fruit, known as the finest eating strawberry in America by the James Beard Foundation, is a deep, dark, red, with an exceptionally bold flavor. After World War II, the Marshall was devastated by viruses and has been left out of conventional supermarket supply chains due to its soil specifications and the delicate handling it requires.

The fruit is so soft, in fact, that it leaves a trail of juice when harvested and moved from the fields. This makes the Marshall difficult to ship and store, but oh-so-good to eat. But Indiana-based artist Leah Gauthier does not believe that the absence of the Marshall in grocery stores means we can’t enjoy it, and her strawberry project introduces a new philosophy of produce distribution.

Find Golden’s excellent article here. Indiana Public Radio has also covered Gauthier’s work. As Megan Meyer reported in 2010,

[Gauthier’s] series of works started with a nectarine in Spain: “I bit into a nectarine and it was like a religious experience. I thought, why do they have such great produce over there, and why is what I buy in the grocery store completely tasteless? It set a quest in my mind, to figure out why this was so. I did a lot of research; I found out about industrial agriculture and monocultures and food traveling 5,000 miles from farm to market. This is why it’s tasteless.” So she came back and started planting hardy heirloom fruits and vegetables from seed, not just for her own gustatorial pleasure, but also to be more self-sufficient.

For more on how Gauthier’s passion for full-flavor local produce intersects with her artwork, check out Meyer’s  story, as well as Annie Corrigan’s report from January of this year.

Alisa Toninato’s cast-iron-skillet U.S.A.

As reported by Katie Dean at 77 Square yesterday, sculptor Alisa Toninato (Milwaukee-trained, Madison-based) has been garnering a lot of attention for her state-shaped iron skillets. I first saw them when the entire Midwest was on display at Underground Kitchen. I was charmed and more than a little envious: I wanted to bring them home with me! I was particularly tickled that Michigan, like the other Midwestern states, had just one handle—but it forked to the U.P. on the right and the “mitten” on the left.

As Dean writes,

Through blogs and word of mouth, Toninato is winning fans across the country for her latest project, a map of the lower 48 states called “Made in America,” with each state recreated as a cast iron skillet. Even the arbiter of home and kitchen design herself, Martha Stewart, took notice, and invited Toninato to appear on her show in April.

Now, the United States skillet art project will be accessible to local gourmets. Toninato’s foundry, FeLion Studios (a combination of the periodic symbol for iron and her astrological sign, Leo) is bringing a separate commercial product to market so cooks can bake up a Wisconsin-shaped cornbread, or show their state pride on their stove as they fry up their brats.

“We’ve gotten so much positive feedback from the art pieces that we’re just using our gut and taking this risk and putting our personal investment into this production line,” Toninato said. “We all believe in it. It’s totally the American spirit.

“Hopefully other people dig it.”

Head here for the full article, then click over to the website of Toninato’s FeLion Studios where you can view pics of all the state skillets as well as photos from before and at her appearance on Martha Stewart’s program. For a brief but engaging introduction to the artist and her work, check out Toninato’s video bio from ArtPrize below.