November 23, 2014
I like sweets, but I tend not to like the taste of sweets. Instead, I like to look at sweets. For reasons I am not totally clear on, the visual aspects of certain foods, I greatly admire, but I have no urge to eat them. Instead I like the image of food much better than eating that food. If you wonder what my favorite film is, I with all honesty would have to say a Burger King commercial, where they show in detail, a sandwich about to be eaten. I can’t even remember the actor/model who is about to bite into the sandwich. Or if it is taking place on a real or imagined location. My only focus is on the sandwich itself. I’m the commercial wants that effect, but also, I have no memory where that sandwich came from. Burger King, McDonald’s, In N’ Out - all of them are the same to me. I can’t imagine I would go to a fast-food place to eat anything, and I have no urge to see these foods in real time. No, I prefer the photograph or even painting of food than the real thing.
If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, one can’t avoid the pictures of people’s meals before eating it. I would like to say these images are spiritual, but they’re more about consuming than anything else. Or is it even that? Wouldn’t it be better to show an empty plate, which in turn, strongly suggests that the eater really loved that meal? So why are photographs of food or a meal before it is eaten? On one level, I can see it as a journal for the eater - he or she can look at the picture and be reminded that they had that meal at so and so place and time, but what does it mean to the viewer?
The best sweets are the one’s that look the most complicated to make. We admire the skills and how that plate of food is made. The portion has to be just right (usually in America, at the very least, there’s a lot of food on that plate) and the setting should be seductive as well. As a viewer it doesn’t make me hungry, but I guess a touch of jealousy does come into the picture. Not only are these images pornography of sorts, but it also a statement that “I’m living better than you, because look at this food I’m about to eat.” In essence not that far off from a model/actress in a porn film being interviewed about her sexual habits before being fucked by the photographer. There is something creepy about seeing a young girl being used in such a fashion in front of a camera, and I feel the same way at looking at someone’s image of their meal. I too want to have sex with that girl in the film, in that same exact situation, but I can’t. The same as when I look at a picture of someone’s decadent desert, I can’t eat it due to health issues. It is almost like the photographer is going out of his or her’s way to show off that they can eat this dish of food, while you sit there and fantasize about it.
I’m a fan of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of various sweets. On one level, it does make me desire to reach out and taste the painting or drawing. On the other hand, there is something so cold about how the food is displayed in such a fashion. It is almost like the ice creams and cakes are stand-in’s for a photograph of the Nazis in Nuremberg. One is totally seduced in the image of a series of soldiers lined up so perfectly and so many. Why they are there, and who they are - doesn’t make much sense, except in the visual experience of having such perfect sense of order in front of your eyes. Food photography, from the viewpoint of a professional photographer, artist, or even more seductive, by an amateur image maker with Instagram, exposes the need for a moment or two of perfection. I don’t think Thiebaud’s paintings are about fascism or even order, but that is how I view his work. They’re beautiful to me.
Ironically enough I also admire the images of his daughter Twinka, who posed many times in the nude for various fine art photographers. Like the images of beautiful food, I too have a visual need to look at her. I don’t need to know her, and even though I feel erotic feelings for her, I surely don’t need to penetrate her. In any fashion or form. Nevertheless the eros that melts off her skin onto the viewer’s gaze is such a wonder. On a different level looking at her images, I feel that there is a landscape that is not logical or restricted, with respect to the images of food. There is a specific logic when you see a painting or a photo of a desert. You can taste it if you have the imagination to do so. I don’t think it serves any purpose beyond that the food is there, and perhaps it is used to mark a specific time in one’s life as well as for its location. In a nutshell, Twinka gives me layers of meaning, that is hard for me to penetrate (no pun intended) -yet, I’m drawn to her beauty and the way she exposes her sensual body. Food is also sensual, so I guess at the end of the day, we should just accept that for some, a plate of food is bliss, as well as a photograph of Twinka Thiebaud.