Still Life with Big Mac Meal, Cat, and Unwinding Lemon
I’ve been thinking about fast food in still lifes, and junk food in general, in still lifes for quite a while now. In fact, the first painting I ever did was in high school and was of a Big Mac and Fries. Seriously. My first job was at McDonald’s when I was 14. It was a new restaurant and we hopped in a big van to go see the big city McDonald’s with the guy who trained us. So basically a van load of 14 year old girls and the pervie manager/trainer guy. I’d like to think this wouldn’t happen nowadays but of course we know better. But even then we all knew not to be alone with him, and girls I didn’t know the slightest, we all had each others’ back on that one. Mostly I remember his favourite song was ONJ’s Physical, which was on the radio at the time, and he was always humming it as he stood behind us. Anyway, I think I lasted a couple of months in that job. It wasn’t good on many levels and it wasn’t going to get any better. The thing that really made me quit though, I’ll admit it, was that the pants of the polyester uniform were too short. It was the final humiliation, and for me, a tall, super not-cool girl, that was the straw. Funny to think about now.
It’s a pretty popular motif in contemporary still life, both photography and painting. I love the realist work of Tjalf Sparnaay and also Lee Price’s work where she depicts herself with junk food. I love Price’s work so much that I even bought one of her prints, and it’s in my study, over my right shoulder as we speak.
Most likely you’ve seen the video of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger, but here it is again.
Fast food is cheap, it’s terrible for us, but it’s designed to give us a quick, feel-good hit. It’s easy to be moralistic about it, but it persists. We can know how truly awful something is and still bel okay with it, collectively, because it’s an industry, it’s larger than we are, and there’s a feeling of helplessness before all that. And meanwhile, some of us have fewer choices than others. When I see the kids who spend most of their summer in the library playing video games on the computers, I never judge them for consuming their giant bags of chips, slurpees, and on a rare good day the burgers and fries. It’s what they can afford.
Maybe if we could figure out the nuances of our addiction to fast food, we could figure out how we got where we have politically.
Meanwhile, you’ll notice how the orange of the cheese is picked up in the flowers, and how the red fry box is a counterpoint to the magenta of the ranunculus. The porcelain cat is never going to get a morsel. And the lemon is the same colour as the M on the cup. If I were to have left all this as pictured, the lemon would have rotted, the flowers would have wilted, but the fries and burger would remain. That stuff never decomposes, never goes away. Nevertheless, memento mori.
Also, is there still beauty to be found in all this? Does the presence of the fast food spoil the other elements and make them less beautiful or interesting? Are we left feeling satisfied in our looking? or do the empty calories translate there as well? How hungry for beauty are we? How hungry for something of substance? Questions.
Lastly, another experiment: I’ve opened a shop on Society 6 with some of my recent still life images. There are prints, small prints and canvas prints. I can already tell I’m going to be terrible at promoting them….so thanks for looking :)