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Inspiration

Sandy Skoglund: A Beautiful Horror

‘Don’t play with your food’ is a sentence we all probably heard countless times from our parents during a family meal. But let’s stop for a moment and try to think outside the box. How ruching for the produce in our fridge to… create art? Sounds surreal? Well, maybe to some, but surely not to Sandy Skoglund.

The American’s works are impossible to mistake for anyone else’s. Sandy Skoglund (born in 1946), who graduated from the University of Iowa with a Masters in Art and a Masters in Fine Arts, has been working on the junction of various disciplines since the beginning of her artistic career. She first dips her toes into photography after gradating and she’ll remain loyal to the medium going forward, while also stating that it’s just a tool, which allows her to document a multi-stage process of creating. ‘The journey is what matters, not the end result’ – she says in one of the interviews. 

In Skoglund’s dictionary ‘journey’ translates to ‘meaningful struggle’, a series of tedious (usually) actions leading to the creation of complex sceneries – unrealistic, neon micro-worlds inhabited by mannequins, tens of hand-made figurines and live models. Micro-worlds, let’s add, which are typically made out of food. The American’s fascination with edible materials goes back to the late 70s. Inspired with the commercial photography of the time, the artist worked on her Food Still Life series, which was equally a playful take on the formal aspects and a critical commentary on consumerism in the United States.  

Precise compositions made out of biscuits, peas or corn kernels are an introduction to the series of works done at the brink of the 20th and 21st century, which Skoglund is mostly known for. The artist makes use of produce as a medium with which she creates set designs and the characters themselves. While working on Coctail Party (1992) she reaches for corn crisps, in Spirituality in the Flesh (1992) she uses ground beef, in Atomic Love (1992) – raisins. Consecutive ideas are appearing one by one: pieces of bacon  (Body Limits, 1992), marmalade (The Wedding, 1994), eggshells (Walking on Eggshells, 1997), popcorn (Raining Popcorn, 2001) or red wine glasses (Picnic on Wine, 2003). The installations work as individual objects exhibited in galleries, as well as in the form of photographs. They amaze and induce nerves with their radical realism and bizarreness. I think of food as a universal language. Everyone eats. For the camera, food has colors and textures that can be manipulated to fabulous effect. I love the childish behavior of sculpting and painting with food. Food as a material allows me to explore the boundaries between nature and artifice’ – Sandy Skoglund explains. Her works can be interpreted in numerous ways, with ecological, catastrophe, sociology and many more themes written into them. As the artist herself states – each interpretation is the right one.

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