This particular project has been in process since I got home in January. It started with this idea about the consumption of language that is largely based within a white male vernacular. How am I supposed to relate to this as an artist that happens to be a woman? As I have previously stated, I had no idea how important the issue of gender was in the art world. The reason for this is I believe that I was born at the right moment. Is there some sort of sacred protection white man’s vernacular? I don’t understand. In spite of it I haven’t any choice but to consume it as it is the history so that’s where the lunch tray comes in. While looking at the work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, in particular, the combines, I thought that this would be a way to convey what it is I am trying to say.
I also have this obsession with school lunches. I am sure it stems from being an all organic diet growing up purchasing school lunch was a weekly privilege. When I became a school photographer this novelty resurfaced. I noticed that the lunches offered to the children in the school, based on what town the school is in dictates the quality of the food. For example, at a school in Fall River, I once was given a round thick slab turkey with a thick square of orange cheese on a hamburger bun (tarter sauce was the only condiment available) with a side of canned peas that weren’t quite green. The dessert was some type of canned fruit and of course the carton of milk. At a school in Needham I had chicken tenders (choice of dipping sauces), a caprese salad, fresh fruit salad including kiwi, choice of the bag of chips and a carton of milk. So, the language in regards to the varied demographics speaks to me. Enough of the biographical attachment, novelty soon wears off and process takes over.
The majority of people in America can relate to school lunch. It is common, much like the art objects created by Claes Oldenberg in “The Store.” These things attract me. I believe commonality creates a language in which people can relate to.
I started by making a plaster mold of a Styrofoam lunch tray. I then cast it in wax. I did this three times until I finally got one I was somewhat satisfied with. Originally I wanted it to be clear wax, then; I dyed the paraffin wax pink with some Crayola crayons. This color is largely associated with women and is the reason I chose it. This tray I find is becoming a morph of the plates done by Judy Chicago. As I am finding each object that is represented is finding its own place within the space.
The “Language as a Dessert” is represented by the brains in the corner of the lunch tray. They are made with paraffin wax and dyed ruby and red with Crayola crayons. Our own epistemology is shaped by what we experience and what we are taught. This is why I found it important to represent the core organ behind the storage of all these intellectual items we collect. The brains are not scale; nothing in this project is and they are not supposed to be. I may revisit that issue later. I think of language as a dessert because as an artist typically I work very intuitively, whether the driver is a muse, pure creativity, process based or otherwise, language is an afterthought and the creation of the work was in the forefront. Now I am finding that the language can inspire the work. This work is evolving as the project is in process and it is fascinating.
What school lunch would be complete without a carton of milk? And what could be a better way to try and deliver the cliché of the representation of women on the tray than this. I acquired some milk cartons and poured plaster into them. I plan to paint a target reminiscent of the target on the combine made by Jasper Johns. The shape is so similar to a breast…I may abandoned this idea, for that reason I have not painted it yet.
Now the question is what is for lunch? My original thought was Campbell’s soup. Of course! Of course not!! I needed to push a little harder. The plaster milk carton is cliché enough. It is too easy to just put the can on the tray. I am fine with found objects and ready mades I just didn’t see this as that time. That will come later. Then I thought I will make a mold and make a wax can. Then I will create a label. I truly started to get frustrated with the entrée at this point. Then I was studying Claes Oldenberg and it hit me. His floor burger with that pickle on top would be a great entrée. That and it would add to what it is I am trying to create and convey here. A burger, everyone loves a burger. I found a friend that sews. I had a total failure first time around because I used preprimed canvas and it was too tough to get the needle through. Then I decided I should use unprimed canvas as it’s a bit more malleable. First, it was just two buns, a beef patty and a slice of Swiss cheese I was after. Then, I wanted a tomato and lettuce. The top bun has sesame seeds. I will be sure to post a picture once I compress it, the objects are stuffed with plastic bags and I need to squeeze out some of that air. Engaging in the process of creating a soft sculpture has intrigued me.
I was reading about a sculpture made by Richard Artschwager, “Table with Pink Tablecloth.” It represented a minimalist sensibility and references POP. I found it to be humorous and I liked how clean it looked. I needed a place for my lunch tray and other creative objects. I absolved I was going to build one except I would paint it as a desk. I drew up plans and recruited the proper individuals to build this box. I was wrong here too. It seems to happen quite a bit in the creative process. I would still like to create something of this nature at some point. It is a separate project. Recognizing that is just as important and moving on even more so. Then, I am back in the same space I was originally about the lunch tray. Where to put it and how to present it? This whole project is contingent on mocking the language while introducing a myriad of language within it. I needed a readymade. Thanks DuChamp. I have the perfect desk with an inkwell and a chair. It’s straight vintage circa 1950’s-1960’s. It will be a perfect pedestal for the lunch tray and a nice addition to, “Language as a Dessert.” Everyone starts out at the desk being spoon fed language.
UPDATE: March 26, 2014
Today I am posting a couple of pictures to give a face to this project. The progression from a wax tray to soft sculpture has been an interesting journey and though quite challenging it is proving somewhat rewarding.
Some of the originals have become maquettes. Sunanda commented to me that I should think about scale. I did. Now I have created a rather large milk carton as opposed to the original plaster one. It being complete creates another whole issue of what type of imagery to apply to it. Always remembering it is not just a carton of milk and though the physical language of the piece signal claes oldenberg, I want to be sure to expand that so it doesn’t stay there. I never thought a small project about a combine would morph into this.