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Dalí, Warhol, and the Lip-Smacking Legacy of Artists and Food

A brief, sumptuous history of creative combinations of food and art.
Glass of Absinthe (1914) by Pablo Picasso. Photo via Flickr

Food fuels art.

From a literal perspective, the greasy Whopper that Andy Warhol devours stone-faced probably played some role in keeping his mind sharp. Additionally, there's little doubt that Jackson Pollock's damn tasty applie pie recipe furthered dessert-time conversation. But going beyond its basic function of calorie provider and social lubricant, food can even inspire artworks and offer insight into the minds of the artists we adore.


The art world's culinary palette has come a long way from cave drawings of Neanderthals chowing down on the spoils of their hunts. Absinthe and its "Green Fairy" myth live in infamy as the highbrow beverage of choice for a number of European artists, from Van Gogh to Picasso. The latter's tendency to feature the infamous absinthe glass in various numbers of his works, including Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto (1903), and his 1914 series of sculptures, Glass of Absinthe, highlights the drink's muse-like function throughout Picasso's body of work.

In a similar fashion, director David Lynch reveals his own love of beverages through his art. Widely known amongst college dorm film auteurs as a de facto advocate for Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lynch's status as a coffee aficionado percolates throughout Twin Peaks. A fiend for the bean (the Eraserhead director claims to drink 10 cups of coffee a day), the show's well-caffeinated protagonist, Special Agent Dale Cooper, enjoys a similar relationship to coffee when chilling out at the local diner, cup of joe in hand.

The contemporary visual art scene, however, also reveals a variety of food-featuring projects that stretch far beyond the blue screen of food documentaries and Instagram's #foodporn selection. Sarah DeRemer's series of critter-produce photo manipulations, Animal Food, offers viewers insight in blending the dichotomy between the flora and fauna we consume. Photographer Beth Galton, somewhere in between an anatomical food photographer and colorist, splices bright, mustard-drenched hotdogs with chicken noodle soup in her photo series, Cut Food. "We move past the simple appetite appeal we normally try to achieve and explore the interior worlds of these products," Galton says in an interview with Imaging Resource. In each photo, the photographer allows viewers to gaze upon pure aesthetic that lies beyond sheer gluttonous—or glutinous—instinct.


And at the bottom of the art-food rabbit hole, bad boy Damien Hirst stretches pharmaceutical packaging with the medicine’s name replaced with that of food common on British canteen menus in his 1999 series, The Last Supper, wherein he merely uses the names of food to toy with our ideas and associations.

Carrox by Sarah DeRemer, via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond artists simply highlighting their favorite dishes in their art, their choice of food and drink often divulges the artist's character just as much as their work.

According to food writer Fiona Ross in her book, Dining with the Famous and Infamous, the renowned screwball surrealist Salvador Dalí fancied his protégée and muse Amanda Lear so much that he'd showcase his love for the woman he said "had a beautiful skull" by sharing with her bowls of cold fruit soup.

Electronic music wunderkind Dan Deacon, on the sonic spectrum, boasts as his favorite food Peanut Butter Bumpers cereal, the sugary sweet, processed, mass-produced breakfast of champions that he shamelessly promotes. "The ingredients list is short and I recognize everything on it," Deacon says in his guest editor post in Magnet Magazine. "And it tastes fucking awesome." Just like his choice of breakfast, Deacon keeps this familiar but slightly offbeat: production involves crackling marriages of orchestral string and computerized wizzes that sound like he's putting synth melodies from standardized mainstream electropop through the blender.


Now that you know, you, too, can art what you eat.


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