Eye Candy

This diptych is sewn from the nets in which fruits and vegetables are sold is large supermarket chains. The two panels of the piece each represent a human eye and shown together, they illustrate a pair of eyes staring at the viewer. All of the colors used are extremely bright; shading produced by juxtaposing / overlapping swatches of fabric evokes a bright Warhol-esque screen print.

The source image 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 pierces through the eyes and, depending on where the work is hung, can also look out at the world through the veil of the artwork.

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 bulk quantities of food more cheaply 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 industrial 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, supermarkets 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 used to weave the vegetable nets, themselves. Companies that 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.

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