Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket Produce Scan of the Week, 5/15/2010
Many of my friends dislike Rochester’s public market: it “makes [them] want to turn into the Hulk and start shoving old ladies out of the way.” The public market is incredibly crowded, slow-moving, and at times irritating, so it makes sense that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
I love the public market. I love that people let down their personal-space barriers and forget to be wary of strangers. I also really, really love food, and the public market has it in abundance. My parents opened a cafe when I was fifteen, so I spent my teenage years watching how people responded to good food (it’s magical).
Over the summer, my roommate learned to ask if I ‘wanted to draw that [insert vegetable here]’ before she started cooking. I don’t know if the forms and colors of the average vegetable are inherently beautiful, or if thinking something is beautiful is somehow connected to the knowledge that it would be good to eat.
Ranjit Bhatnagar has been scanning his weekly produce haul for years. The resulting images are both cheeky and beautifully composed. I think that the process of creating these images is pretty bold— which makes them evocative of the gleeful anticipation of the farmer’s market. These images come off as spontaneous and playful, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a slow and thoughtful process. The placement of color and use of movement is just too good for a slapdash ‘dump this bag of fruit on the scanner bed and go.’
Kiki Smith, installation for the deYoung museum
Normann Szkop, aerial photo of tulip fields in Holland
Lately I’ve been thinking about why artists bother with nature. After all, it’s already out there, and it’s arguably been done better in its original state than anything an artist could hope to do in a reproduction. Not all artists do this-there are plenty of artists who create images that have strong elements of fantasy and the surreal. At the same time, one of the oldest artistic traditions is looking at something and trying to copy it faithfully. Modern technology removes the practical reasons for doing this: digital photography is quick, cheap, easy, and more accurate. If we assume that most artists create art because they enjoy it, maybe the reason has to do with participating in something as beautiful as the natural world. This statement assumes that everyone’s perception of the outdoors is similar to mine, but I suspect that I’m not the only artist who makes art for this reason.
A parallel and maybe contradictory question is why we’re drawn to ordered and improved nature. Why are gardens visually appealing? Why have we been creating decorative breeds of domestic animals for almost as long as domestication has been around? Why do humans feel the need to ‘put a bird on it’, and decorate our bodies with images (or parts of) plants, animals, and insects? If you assume that most cultures participate in at least one of these practices, it’s a striking pattern. We find something very beautiful in the natural world…but we are also driven by the impulse to improve, distort, and organize.