Some time ago, an in-flight magazine presented me with the fanciful foodscapes of Carl Warner.
Warner’s Food Landscapes are scenes built out of edible materials, mostly in their own shape: you can see that the stone wall is build out of beans, and the autumnal leaves are cornflakes. (The above photo is my favorite; if I ever publish my dissertation, I would love this haunting but playful image as the cover.) Warner’s food photographs most frequently feature vibrant and seemingly vast landscapes, but occasionally he builds faces. This portrait is a tribute to comedian Billy Connolly, built entirely out of Scottish ingredients: turnips, bacon, even haggis. (Video of construction here.)
Of course, Warner isn’t the first artist to build faces out of food. Awhile ago, it seemed that Saxton Freymann‘s anthropomorphic food sculptures were everywhere, photographed for coffee table books, calendars, and postcards. Incidentally, a friend sent me a Freymann postcard while I was mulling over the idea for this post; the picture on the card was Kissing the Frog, below.
Warner’s and Freymann’s crafts are both photography – the manipulation of light and depth – and sculpture, as the food itself is carved and collaged into a representation of something else (as seen on the video of Warner’s work linked above.) More mysterious to me is the craft of Guiseppe Arcimboldo, a sixteenth century painter whose work frequently appears on and around texts of food scholarship:
This image is the one I’ve seen most often. His portraits are most frequently built out of food and plant materials, but there is one painting entitled Water that seems to be constructed out of active, swimming fishes – which would suggest that Arcimboldo did not build or construct his portrait subjects. These much earlier paintings also seem to differ from Warner’s and Freymann’s in tone: where the contemporary artists’ scenes tend toward playfully vibrant colors and visual puns, Arcimboldo’s paintings may be lush (like the portrait above) or scary, either smiling or serious.
Addendum: As I gathered the images for this post, I came across a post at Food in the Library that featured two of these artists in a similar comparison. The linked post includes a picture of Water, if you’re interested.