If we are what we eat, what are we ingesting daily? We have no choice but to feast, and our relationship to food is a complex one, especially in this age of biotechnology and consumerism. We can scour through food ingredient labels and follow the constantly morphing science as to whether GM food is safe, questionable, or even poised to improve our food supply, but sometimes one look at the artwork of Mia Brownell is all it takes to really confront our twisted relationship with food: obsessive, loyal, trusting, ambivalent and sometimes blissfully ignorant.

One of my favorite artists, she uses food "still-lifes" as her primary mode of artistic creation. Except--they are the exact opposite of "still". Her paintings vibrate with constant movement, undulating like a hanging stomach sac, or twirling upwards on the back of a meaty DNA helix.

To me, her proliferative fruits suggest both human form and genetic models, and their collapse then calls out the connections between them. Now that we have finally begun to gain mastery over the genetic code of our foods and even have the ability to tweak those genes for color and flavor, it is a very natural urge to wonder how these foods will change us. Her work is not a condemnation of biotechnology and consumerism so much as a statement on our times--A recognition of the closely involved and yet so distanced relationship we have with the food we buy, sometimes not knowing where the apple came from, or how the tomato grew, or what hand technology had in its being.

Her style plays on the famous still lifes of 17th century Old Dutch Masters who painted silver platters loaded with oysters and apples, sometimes tempting mountains of bright grapes, and sometimes blackened apricots writhing with mold and insects. Brownell has this exacting, hauntingly beautiful style, but paints with 21st century concerns.

By Genevieve Wanucha
Blood Sugar Blog