Posts filed under ‘Food and Art’

A Visual Treat

"Figs and Morning Glories"

© Photo by Margarida Correia. “Figs and Morning Glories” by Paulette Tavormina is part of the “Food for Thought” photo exhibition at the Robert Mann Gallery in Chelsea.

For foodies who can’t stop thinking about food, this visual treat is a must:  an exhibition of food photography at the Robert Mann Gallery in Chelsea.

Food for Thought:  A Group Exhibition,” showcases some 30 color and vintage black-and-white photographs from 1912 to 2010, several by well-known artists, such as Man Ray.

The exhibition features many still lifes — both classical and modern — and revealing portraits of people either in kitchens or at dinner tables.

Two images, “Lemons and Pomegranates” and “Figs and Morning Glories” by Paulette Tavormina, are visual delights that reveal the fruit — inside and outside  — in glorious detail.  Another personal favorite, the oldest in the collection, is a 1912 platinum print of grape clusters by Edwin Hale Lincoln – it reminded me of my grandfather’s vineyard in Portugal.

The exhibition will run through May 14.

(The Robert Mann Gallery is located at 210 11th Avenue at 24th Street.  It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

April 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Cans, Cans, and More Cans

©Photo by Margarida Correia. A sculpture of Russian nesting dolls is one of some 20 “canstructions” built entirely with cans of food. The sculptures will be on display through Nov. 22 at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.

©Photo by Margarida Correia. A sculpture of a water spill won an honorable mention in the New York City Canstruction competition. The sculpture was built with 5,180 cans of tuna.

Giant, fanciful sculptures built entirely with cans of food have once again invaded the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.  This year’s “canstructions” include a pair of Russian nesting dolls, Mr. Potato Head, and even King Kong.

The sculptures – on display through Nov. 22 – are part of Canstruction, an international charity competition to raise public awareness of hunger.

The winning BabushCAN sculpture – built with 3,472 cans of tuna, pink beans, green beans and peaches in pear juice – notes that “object within object, can on top of can, we’re here for a healthy cause.”

A notable sculpture of an overturned cup, entitled “Cups Can Only Spill,” alludes to the world’s limited resources.  “We never know the worth of water till the well runs dry,” the caption on the sculpture reads.  The sculpture won an honorable mention.

Once the exhibit closes, the thousands of cans of food used to create the sculptures will be donated to City Harvest for distribution to food pantries. The structures are estimated to provide enough food to feed nearly 70,000 hungry New Yorkers, according to the Society of Design Administration, a trade association and one of the organizations that helped organize the New York City competition.

The Canstruction competition and exhibition has been held in New York City for 18 years. The sculptures will be on view in the Winter Garden through Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (until 5 p.m. on the last day).

For an account of previous Canstruction competitions, click here and here.

November 17, 2010 at 2:37 am Leave a comment

Whet Your Appetite

© Margarida Correia. The graphic design elements that appear in Marlow & Sons Restaurant branding allude to the eatery’s humble beginnings in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn.

Ever wonder how graphic design influences your food decisions?  Alexander Tochilovsky, curator of “Appetite,” an exhibition at 41 Cooper Gallery at The Cooper Union, has.

“We consume things visually before we consume them physically,” he writes in the introduction to “Appetite.”

The exhibition explores graphic design in food packaging, supermarkets and eateries ranging from restaurants and diners to food trucks and carts.  Viewers learn the provenance of the mysterious pigeon that often appears in the branding of Marlow & Sons Restaurant, the popular café and restaurant in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn.  The pigeon serves as “sort of an underdog icon” that alludes to the restaurant’s humble start in a then depressed neighborhood that had a “seedy bodega around the corner which always had chickens out front.”

Most impressive of all the graphic design presented was the least adorned:  the nutritional label that now appears on all packaged food.  The simple label made up of black lines, columns and asterisked notations synthesizes 4,000 pages of regulations.  It’s the Rubik’s Cube of graphic design.

“Appetite,” which opened Sept. 14, runs through Oct. 9.



September 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Wrap-up of a Year’s Worth of Blogging: Power of the People and a Politician Propel New York Local Food Movement in 2009

Sheer public support for local food and small farms made 2009 a banner year for New York City locavores.  Farmers markets and community gardens flourished, and new urban farms emerged, including the city’s first rooftop farm — a 6,000-square-foot site that drew scores of eager volunteers each Sunday throughout the 2009 growing season.

The local food movement had the power of the people behind it, and gained extra momentum, thanks to the power of a colorful and forceful politician:  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

“New York City must be front and center in the international debate over food,” Stringer told some 1,000 foodies at a conference earlier this month at New York University.  He proposed forming a New York City Department of Food and Markets that would report directly to the mayor and pushed for a more regional food supply system.

“Food policy will be a top priority for my office,” he rallied the crowd of urban gardeners, nutritionists, chefs, teachers, civic leaders, community activists and others with a stake in food and farm policy.

The conference, which sold out within hours of its announcement, came only days after New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn launched “FoodWorks New York,” an initiative to analyze the city’s food system and tap its potential to create jobs by working with local farmers.

New York locavores found more than champions in positions to shake things up.  They also discovered what could turn out to be a symbol for their movement:  the city’s heirloom apple, the Newtown-Pippin.  The green-yellow apples originated on a farm in Maspeth, Queens, in the 1700s and became popular throughout the country.  Now a campaign is underway to reintroduce the apple tree in parks and gardens citywide and even name the Newtown-Pippin the city’s official apple.

Without a doubt, 2009 gave the local food movement a big boost.  Here’s a look back at some blog posts that chronicle turning points for advocates of a more localized food system:

  • Report Champions Local Farmers:  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer releases a report calling for a “radical overhaul” of New York City’s food system.  The report makes several recommendations that would make it easier for local farmers to sell their produce in New York City, including requiring government food buyers to purchase a certain percentage of their food from farmers in the city’s foodshed.
  • New York Urban Farmers Draw Large Crowd:  A panel discussion on urban farming draws a huge crowd of local food enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Participants hear from a Brooklyn-based indoor grower of wheatgrass and sprouts who “moved his farm to the city” from upstate New York “to be closer to his customers.”  A few weeks later, the keynote speaker at a conference on community supported agriculture — upstate farmer Cheryl Rogowski — noted that “farmers are rock stars” and that “it’s never been a more challenging or exciting time to be farmers than now.”  Not so fast, I say, in this post.  An unrepentant doubting Thomas, I question what many are calling a U.S. “food revolution.”
  • Farmers in Training:  This post profiles Michael Grady Robertson, the farm supervisor of the Queens County Farm Museum, and the opportunities the farm provides for breaking in would-be farmers.
  • Battalion of Volunteer Bee Keepers Invade City Parks and Gardens:  Local papers and blogs (including this one) covered efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City.  Less well-covered was the Great Pollinator Project, a citywide effort to better understand and raise awareness of the importance of city bees.  The blog post describes my participation in the project.
  • The Greening of City Rooftops:  Farming on rooftops may become a hot new trend in New York City.  The post reflects on the development of green roofs in the last two years and where they’re likely to go. In this post, urban farming leaps ahead with visionary Dr. Dickson Despommier’s notion of a “vertical farm,” one in which crops grow indoors in multi-story buildings.
  • Phoenix Community Gardens Brings Neighbors Together:  This account of a refurbished community garden in Brooklyn peers into the lives of the people who garden there.  There are other posts on urban gardeners, including this one about Karen Washington, founder of the Garden of Happiness, and this one about Abu Talib, director of Taqwa Community Garden.  There’s also an account here of “wild man” Joe Gonzalez, a backyard gardener and community leader.
  • What Price Milk?:  The troubles facing today’s dairy farms recall the 1930s when dairymen were getting a raw deal on the price of milk.  They, too, we going bankrupt, even as consumer milk prices were going through the roof.  The turbulent time in New York milk history is documented in the online exhibit New York Bounty describes in the post.
  • Visions of Urban Farmland for the Grand Concourse: A proposal to transform the Grand Concourse, a nine-lane motorway in the Bronx, into four miles of contiguous urban farmland won second place in a global competition to remake the 100-year-old thoroughfare.  Farming inspired other artists in 2009.  In September, artist Leah Gauthier celebrated the close of a five-borough micro-farm installation consisting of modest growing spaces donated by New Yorkers.  In return for the spaces, Gauthier became a “sharecropper,” paying donors with a portion of the produce she grew on individual locations for the season.  It’s the ultimate high-concept art project.
  • The Nature Nut: I introduced former organic farmer and certified holistic health counselor Susana Correia as New York Bounty’s resident expert on organic farming and nutrition counseling.  The “Nature Nut” received and answered several questions throughout the year, and is waiting for more.  Have questions about what to grow in your community garden or your roof or terrace or even in your kitchen?  Questions about nutrition?  Try asking the Nature Nut.  She’ll know.

It’s been challenging keeping up with all that’s happening in urban agriculture in New York City, but I’ve had quite a bit of fun.  One day, though, was the highlight of the year – the day my blog got noticed.  In April, New York Bounty was listed in the information section of the Manhattan User’s Guide, a daily e-mail that keeps readers on top of the city.  Here’s how MUG described New York Bounty:  “With refreshingly few bells and whistles, thoughtful commentary on food, health, and the environment, particularly the ways in which urbanites are trying to reconnect with the good earth.”

The praise sent me over the moon — at least for a day or two.  It’s going to be hard to live up to the description, but I’m sure going to try, every single day of 2010 and beyond…

Happy New Year, everyone!

December 31, 2009 at 3:32 am 1 comment

Visions of Urban Farmland for the Grand Concourse

Intersections:  Grand Concourse Beyond 100

The Grand Concourse in the Bronx would be transformed into four miles of contiguous urban farmland under a proposal submitted to the Bronx Museum of the Arts as part of an international competition.

The Grand Concourse in the Bronx was supposed to be the city’s Champs Élysées.  Instead, it turned into a nine-lane motorway.

The 100-year-old boulevard may be in for a makeover though.  Nearly 200 proposals for the Grand Concourse flooded the Bronx Museum of the Arts in response to the museum’s call for ideas as part of a global competition jointly sponsored with the Design Trust for Public Space.

Guess which idea placed second?   One called Agricultural Urbanism, a proposal that would transform the concourse into four miles of contiguous urban farmland and public open space.  The envisaged stretch of land would produce more than 500,000 pounds of organic produce, with water harvested from two million square feet of green roofs.

The six other finalists proposed plans that featured everything from windmills to tree farms and agricultural greenhouses.   Animations, renderings, models and interactive installations of the top seven proposals are on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through Jan. 3, 2010, as part of the “Intersections:  Grand Concourse Beyond 100” exhibition.  Click here to see some of the renderings and learn about each of the proposals.

November 30, 2009 at 7:55 pm 1 comment

Food Cans and the Fight against Hunger

PumpCAN pie Canstruction

© Margarida Correia. PumpCAN pie “canstruction” was created with 2,580 cans of tuna, sardines, baked bean, sweet corn and other food. It is part of the 17th annual Canstruction design/build competition.

A piggy bank.  A pumpkin.  A dove.  The three giant sculptures — on display among dozens at the World Financial Center through Monday — are made entirely from food cans.  Thousands of them.

The “canstructions” are part of an annual competition to draw attention to the problem of hunger in America.  With a growing number of Americans cutting back on food or skipping meals due to restricted budgets, the sculptures resonate more than ever.  Just this week, the Agriculture Department reported an increase in the number of American households lacking access to adequate food.   It reported that 49 million Americans are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have enough to eat.  That’s up from 36 million hungry Americans last year.

Many of the canstructions tried to strike a hopeful chord.  The creators of the winning piggy bank sculpture—made with 3,024 tuna and salmon cans—noted that the piggy bank served as “humble reminder that with a little effort from a lot of people we can help feed many.”   A canstruction of the “very hungry caterpillar” in the popular children’s book reflected on the caterpillar’s metamorphosis, using it as a metaphor for hunger.   The caterpillar took an astounding 9,168 tuna cans to build.  It was a very hungry caterpillar indeed.

My personal favorites revolved around Thanksgiving.  There was Jack the PumpCAN, a 3,000-can jack-o-lantern whose lantern “glowed as a beacon of hope” and “warded off the demons of hunger.”  And there was a slice of pumpCAN pie complete with a dollop of cream.  The giant slice was made with 2,580 cans of baked beans, sweet corn and lots of other goodies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

For an account of last year’s Canstruction competition, please click here.

November 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm 1 comment

Sharecropper Art Project Unites City Folk

Hot Peppers

Peppers planted in the concrete alley of an Upper West Side home as part of Leah Gauthier’s “Sharecropper” micro-farming installation in New York City.

In June, artist Leah Gauthier drove from Indiana to New York City — 300 seedlings in tow — to initiate a public art project that called upon New Yorkers to do an unusual thing:  donate spaces to grow the seedlings and be part of a living, breathing micro-farming installation that the artist conceived and called “Sharecropper.” 

The response was stronger than she ever expected. More than 100 New Yorkers responded to her call for space donors and volunteers.  Gauthier soon had a far-flung, five-borough micro farm consisting of small bits of land in gardens and backyards, as well as grittier growing spaces like fire escapes and concrete alleys. She amassed 17 sites in all.

The plan, explained the artist, was to involve as many different people as possible in growing food in as many different urban spaces as possible. She made an offer that was hard to refuse.  In return for donated spaces, she would be a “sharecropper,” paying donors with a portion of the produce she grew on individual locations for the season.      

“I was interested in this project so even a city gal with a brown thumb like myself could do some exciting farming,” wrote Rachel Dahill-Fuchel in an e-mail message.  She donated a 20-square-foot section of her concrete alley on the Upper West Side, where 25 planters were planted with a variety of peppers.     

Though donors didn’t need to lift a finger, most wanted to learn how to garden and grow food, said Gauthier.  Dahill-Fuchel, for example, often watered and even “talked to the peppers.”

Dahill-Fuchel explained that she wanted her children, ages 9 and 14, to experience the joy of planting and harvesting.  “As city folk, it is too easy to forget where our food comes from and what is naturally required for food to grow and thrive,” she wrote. 

In addition to the donors, Gauthier developed a loyal group of some 10 volunteers who helped set up the sites and filled in whenever the artist, who worked a full-time job as a web designer, was not available. 

When deciding what and how much to grow, Gauthier considered what would be manageable for the donors.  She didn’t want to overwhelm them with tasks that might be required in her absence, like watering plants.  She made sure that watering wouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes. 

“Giving someone a garden is like giving them a puppy,” said Gauthier.  “I wanted to make sure that it’s not too much of a burden.” 

Each site was dedicated to a different crop.  Not all were equally productive.  Pumpkins planted in the working garden at Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park were coming in like a “shop of horrors,” said Gauthier.  Dahill-Fuchel’s concrete alley brought in a bumper crop of peppers, while a space in Queens produced plentiful tomatoes, free thankfully of late blight.   The roof atop EyeBeam, an artists’ residency in Chelsea, produced a fair share of melons.

It wasn’t easy covering 17 sites in five boroughs. Gauthier developed three routes that helped her make her gardening rounds.  One took from her from Williamsburg to Staten Island to the Upper West Side to Chelsea, a route that required all forms of public transportation, including the Staten Island Ferry.  Gauthier estimates it took her about five hours to make her rounds each day. 

“It was challenging but also very rewarding,” said Gauthier. She explained that as arduous as it was to manage the micro farm, she got to know the landscape and the plants in an intimate way by visiting every day.   

Sharecropper didn’t bear the most fruitful harvest, Gauthier admits.  But that, she said, wasn’t the goal.  The goal was to bring people together and “re-incorporate agrarian sensibilities and simplicity into modern life.”  On that score, Sharecropper did great.  “As an art piece,” she said, “it was very successful.”

To learn more about Sharecropper, click here.   Crops that were harvested as part of Sharecropper will be featured this weekend at Lefferts Historic House and at Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

September 10, 2009 at 2:06 am 1 comment

News Bounty

Here’s a round-up of interesting articles on food- and farm-related issues that recently appeared in the papers:

 

Is a New Food Policy on His List?  This article tries to gauge how much President-elect Barack Obama will try to reform the food system in America.  Given the gravity of the financial crisis, food reform advocates are trying to be realistic about what can be achieved. 

Miro’s Rich Harvest:  Joan Miro lived in Paris but his heart was in the countryside of Spain’s Catalonia region, where the famous abstract painter grew up. Miro’s love of farms is reflected in “The Farm,” a masterpiece that took him more than nine months to paint.  Miro aimed to embody all that “he loved about the country” in the painting and all that he had learned artistically up to that point.  The painting is deceptively simple, with details—like roosters and rabbits—that are easily missed.  Click and see if you can find them.

Forest Plan in Brazil Bears the Traces of an Activist’s Vision:  Chico Mendes, a Brazilian activist slain for his attempts to save the Amazon rain forest, may not have died in vain.  Brazil — one of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, according to the article — this month introduced targets for reducing deforestation in the country by 72 percent by 2017.  The burning of forests to clear land for farming and ranching accounts for 75 percent of Brazil’s carbon dioxide emissions.  The timing for the initiative probably couldn’t be better, given the global recession.  The demand for food and agricultural goods ebbs during recessionary times. 

In Zimbabwe, Survival Lies in Scavenging:  This story focuses primarily on the political reasons for the sorry state of affairs in hunger-stricken Zimbabwe.  I picked it because it alludes to farm policy issues that likely contributed to the disaster.  The article mentions that President Mugabe’s war thugs seized “mechanized, white-owned commercial farms.”  This hurt small farmers who could no longer afford to buy higher-priced hybrid seed and fertilizer.  Because large-scale farmers had economies of scale, prices for these agriculture products were lower and therefore more affordable to small farmers. The role of commercial farms in the breakdown of Zimbabwe would be interesting to explore. 

Wheat Rises in Week of MGE Floor’s Adieu:  Will Jack Frost kill the winter wheat crop in the Plains and raise commodity prices?  That was the question before traders last Friday as they bought and sold futures contracts on wheat.  Overall traders were bullish, with wheat prices rising on the nation’s three commodities exchanges – the Kansas City Board of Trade, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.  So, how much was a bushel of wheat going for?  Anywhere from $5.63 to $6.25.

December 27, 2008 at 12:11 am Leave a comment

Can-ucopia of Visual Treats

Scabby the Rat usually rats on companies that engage in bad labor behavior.  The giant inflatable rodent — the mascot unions use to shame businesses — shows up uninvited at entrances to corporate buildings, signaling worker strikes or other labor trouble. Now the dreaded rat is taking on another villain:  It’s calling a strike against hunger.  A sculpture of Scabby the Rat is one of the 22 exhibited at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.

 

The 22 sculptures, made entirely of food cans, are part of Canstruction, a design competition dreamed up by the Society of Design Administration, a trade association, as a way to draw attention to the problem of hunger in America.  

A sculpture of Scabby the Rat created from 3,300 cans of refried pinto bins and Tab soda. It is part of the Canstruction exhibit at the World Financial Center.

A sculpture of Scabby the Rat created with 3,300 cans of refried pinto bins and Tab soda. It is part of the Canstruction exhibit at the World Financial Center.

The “canstructions” do that in spades. The sculptures imaginatively use everyday objects, symbols and mascots like Scabby to make pointed statements about hunger.  One sculpture of a bridge — called “Bridging the Hunger Gap” — pointed out that 38 million Americans live in — or on the edge of — hunger and represented “the gap between those in this country who eat like kings and those who can’t afford to fill up their plate at dinnertime.” Another sculpture of a hot-air balloon — cleverly called “Up, Up and Buffet” — symbolized the American “Can Do spirit” and “testing limits and defying gravity.”  “The Seafarer” — a sailboat made of 3,000 cans of tuna — was poetic.  Here’s how the contestants explained their sculpture:  “With the main up, the spinnaker out and wind at her back, we’re racing to beat hunger.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the canned food used to create the sculptures will be donated to City Harvest for distribution to emergency feeding programs. The competition has been held in cities throughout North America for 16 years.    

The “can-ucopia” of visual treats will be on view until Dec. 2, 2008, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eighteen of them will be on view in the Courtyard Gallery of the World Financial Center until Dec. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

November 24, 2008 at 3:13 am 2 comments

Urban Farm Depicted in Architectural Installation

Rural farms have long been depicted in paintings and art, but now urban farms are beginning to get their due.  To liven up its summer fun “Warm-Up” parties, the Museum of Modern Art’s P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City fashioned its courtyard into an urban farm.  Urban Farm 1 – the official name of the courtyard installation – draws upon the concept of a flying carpet and is made up of cardboard tubes, each filled with different vegetables, everything from beets and spinach to kale and cucumbers.     

The tubes are arranged in descending order, forming a carpet that with a little imagination – and a few drinks – can be visualized as “flying into” the courtyard.  The installation is a treat, with a pool area that allows visitors to look up at the rising slope of vegetables reaching infinitely into the sky (and yes, the towering Citibank building in the background). It also has places to sit under the tubes of vegetables and children’s stations with recorded sounds and videos of farm animals.

Urban Farm 1 features cardboard tubes with different vegetables, everything from beets to kale and cucumbers.

Urban Farm 1 features cardboard tubes with different vegetables, everything from beets to kale and cucumbers.

 

 

  

 

 

 

What does it all mean? It’s open to interpretation, but for me the installation was filled with messages about playfulness and imagining or recapturing a fading world.  Here’s how the architects of the installation described their work:  “P.F. 1 is an architectural and urban manifesto to engage play and reinvent our cities, and our world, once again.” 

In a poster on one of the courtyard walls, the museum’s curator put it this way:  “In our post-industrial age of information, customization and individual expression, the most exciting and promising developments are no longer those of mass production but of local interventions.”

Urban Farm 1 points out that those interventions need to begin in cities, the “laboratories of experimentation.”  Whatever interpretation one walks away with, one thing seems clear: urban farms will be getting more attention and play a bigger role in food production in the future.

July 19, 2008 at 12:05 am 1 comment

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