Eye Candy

This two dimensional diptych is sewn from the nets in which fruits and vegetables are sold is large chain supermarkets, in France. The two panels of the piece each represent a human eye and shown together, the piece illustrates a pair of eyes staring at the viewer. The nets come from a variety of sources and were collected by the artist in collaboration with local schools. All of the colors used are extremely bright; the effect of the shading used my juxtaposing and overlapping swatches of fabric is one of a bright Warhol-esque screen print.

The image used derives from a self-portrait photograph of the artist. The piece is a direct contrast to the maxim that looking into another’s eyes is equivalent to looking into their soul. The physical body of the piece (the backing materials as well as the nets sewn upon it) is transparent. The viewer’s gaze based through the eyes and, depending on the piece’s exhibition, can also look out at the world through the veil of the eyes’ perspective.

The materials used are not noble and contrast to the often-lavish contexts in which representational tapestries are traditionally hung. Indeed, the nets represent the cheapest “bulk” option available for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. They also allude to questions of scale and proportionality, and more specifically the supermarkets’ practice of pricing large quantities of food at a lower level than smaller quantities. Because consumers are thus encouraged to purchase more than they “need,” excess food often rots and goes to waste.

These nets, which are specially adapted by color and eyelet size to protect various kinds of fruits and vegetables against different maladies and pests, also represent the processing of these foods on an industrials scale, and their shipment across vast distances. Rather than maturing on the vine, many of these tomatoes, etc. are picked and allowed to ripen on a flatbed truck as they are being delivered. The nets represent not only factory farming, but waste; if one orange in a bag is rotten, the supermarket require workers to discard the entire bag.

The intricate process of hand sewing (with a transparent thread) used to create the artwork contrasts with the standardized mechanisms that characterize the production of the vegetable nets, themselves. Those companies who produce and distribute food in a manner that is out of sink with the body’s needs cannot look us in the eye as humans, but look through us. To them we are consumers, and our value lies in what we buy.

Eye Candy, 2009, Fruit Nets and monofilament, 147 cm x 93 cm x 1 cm x 2 elements