Part One: Project two. Exercise 1.2 part b (page. 25)
Re-make an existing work of at using photography. This can be a simple re-staging or a more elaborate tableau.
Initially, my approach was going to be still life influenced by one of the early female still life painters such as Maria van Oosterwijck (17th century) or Rachel Ruysch (18th century). Their work has been a source of inspiration for some time partly because of their quality but also because of their place as women painters and the fact that it was the only genre they were ‘allowed’ to work in by the academy of the time. For me still life is in part a political act.
In the end I decided to take a different approach and try out something new but that still had a depth of meaning. Stimulated by some of my research for Graphic Design One I decided to look at still life in pop art and came across ‘Orange Field’ by James Rosenquist (1964). I really liked its sense of ordinariness and mundanity, a simple bowl of spaghetti with a single fork; nothing fancy, no food styling or complex staging, just spaghetti. Orange Field sits within the Pop Art commentary on consumerism and capitalism, it speaks to me of my concerns around what has become of food production in the West and how distanced many of us are from where our food originates.
Initially I set it up as a food shoot, imagining I was going to get something close to the original. Unsurprisingly, even though I got the light in about the right place, it was clear very quickly that this was not going to be a copy. Echoing Zahalka’s series it was going to be more of a resemblance, drawing on, rather than recreating the piece. Having taken the shots I made some changes in Photoshop, mainly adding a white mask and tidying up some of the spaghetti.
It was fascinating to do this exercise, and even though it could be said I chose something very simple it became increasingly multi-layered for me as I worked on it. I found myself thinking about Rosenquist’s motivation, about our relationship to food, the fact that while he painted it in 1964 Heinz spaghetti had been on the market since 1926, the implications of this for wheat production and a drive to increasing yields and monocultures that have been so environmentally devastating, and so on. I am also very aware that others looking at the image may see little more than a bowl of spaghetti.