Sunday, January 22, 2012

Artist’s Statement for “White Meat”

"White Meat" part of "Food for Thought" @ Gallery Project
I have had a keen sense of where my food comes from since I was a little kid. I grew up with a grandfather who was a 4H advisor, which meant my brother and I got to spend a lot of time at the annual Darke County Fair in Greenville, OH. I was never shielded from the slaughtering process, nor was I ever part of it. I just knew it happened. A local Polish Grocery on the corner of the street where I grew up had a hand painted sign advertising “Fresh Duck Blood” for anyone who would need it for their pot of czernina. I am not sure if they had a duck tied up in back that they bled for the shopper’s request, or if they would get it some other way. Regardless, it was odd.
As we talked about the various ways we could present this show at our Collaborator meetings, some very robust and often disturbing conversations came out. I wish we would record our meetings, as the process of getting the show ready is very intense. We were discussing the human/animal connection to food, and I brought up that we had bought a pig at our county fair from a 4H girl who raised organic hogs. Our five year old daughter was delighted and couldn’t wait to go to the fair to see the pig. I have a feeling that she thought we would go to the Pork Barn and she would slip a leash on the creature and we would all skip home with our new porcine family member. It was a quiet ride home as she contemplated the pig in our chest freezer in the basement and not frolicking in our backyard.

So how did this piece come to be? I had an interesting phone call with the meat processing place as I discussed how we wanted the pig cut up after it was killed. I had looked up all the butcher’s cuts in one of my cookbooks so I could talk about all the cuts and that image of the animals prepped for butchering lingered in my mind. Our friend Charley is an athlete and a gourmand, a great combination, as he can eat and then go work off the calories with his rowing. He is also a very large man. I shared with the collaborators that our group of friends have often joked that if we were stranded in some remote location, we’d want Charley to be with us so we could eat him. Within a second, the image of Charley with the butcher cuts marked on his wide back came to mind. I asked the curators if they thought that this image was appropriate for the show and I got an enthusiastic thumbs up. I quickly called Charley and shared with him the concept and he was more than delighted to help out. Aaron, a model from the college, came to the shoot to help out and easily slipped into the role of butcher. While my original idea of just Charley with the lines didn’t make it to the gallery, this final, more sinister piece did. My love of horror and slasher-films, as well as my rather macabre sense of humor took over as we played out the various poses at the shoot.
Is this piece meant to be anti-meat?  Not at all.

Is it pro-cannibal?  Possibly.
Is it meant to make you think about what we eat and where our food comes from?  Most certainly.

1 comment:

  1. ah, i love it! reminds me of Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train. it also reminds me of how nice a real butcher is compared to these unpleasant and disturbingly frightening mass production meat plants. i don't recommend the Modern Marvel's Butchering episode for kids (or even squeamish adults). the show was all well and fine until they showed the mass production plants. the lack of caring that goes into the meat from those places is just...gah, horrible. they sucked the skin off of a cow after running it through an acid bath (i think the acid was vinegar, can't remember) and that was just brutally disturbing. it also showed a modern butcher, who actually takes the time to nicely slice off the hide and then goes to work on the meat, which is far less traumatizing to see in my opinion.
    so yeah, this picture has me thinking now; we're all meat. it's odd nothing really eats human anymore. well i could go on and on about what this pictures makes me think about but i'll just cut it off now. but it is a great picture and it speaks volumes :D