Friday, December 12, 2008

Vegetable Museum

Chinese artist Ju Duoqi puts a whole new meaning to ‘playing with your food, transforming ordinary vegetables into veggie replicas of legendary works of art by masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and Andy Warhol’s Marylin Monroe.

Ju Duoqi’s kitchen is her studio, and vegetables are her paint. The 35-year-old artist uses boiled, dried, fried, and pickled vegetables, finishing with the fastest-rotting ingredients to create her masterpiece versions made entirely out of vegetables.

Her art breathes new life into ordinary vegetables, taking ‘green art’ to the extreme using everyday vegetables such as tofu, cabbage, ginger, lotus roots, coriander, and sweet potatoes.

Lumpy potatoes acquire expressive facial features, and radish roots, lettuce leaves, and cloves of garlic are transformed into Botticelli’s Venus.

Sichuan-born Ju carefully slices and carves the veggies, and then assembles her works with toothpicks, taking up to 2 weeks to complete a single recreation of some of the world’s most famous works in photographs.

The former website and computer game designer turned artist has been creating about 2 vegetable sculptures a month since 2006.

The 35-year-old artist says she wants to bring art into everyday life, proving it exists in every household kitchen.

“This is very easy — I just take a knife and slice. One cut can turn into so many different things. In my view, this is very simple.” says Ju.

“The different types, shapes, and colors of the vegetables with a bit of rearranging can make for a rich source of imagery. Fresh, withered, rotting, dried, pickled, boiled, fried, they all come out different.”

“I no longer needed a model, as they all became actors and even props. As a director, I directed them to restage La Liberté Guidant le Peuple, and called it La Liberté Guidant les Légumes.”

“You wouldn’t know them any better if they were chopped into French fries and covered in ketchup, but when placed in the picture, they all appear unfamiliar and rich in facial expression.”

“On the ground lies the body of a winter melon soldier, with rotting ketchup flowing out of his body like blood. The battleground is strewn with rotting vegetable leaves. This great story of history, this world-famous painting, here becomes completely absurd.”

These ’simple techniques’ pay Ju’s bills, as photos taken of the culinary masterpieces go for between $1,500 to $2,000 US each.

Her works which also include replicas of famous pieces such as Monet’s self-portrait and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa created with tofu are currently showcased at the Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery for ‘The Vegetable Museum’ exhibition.

Her organic version of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Munroe fashioned from cabbage and a spring onion sold within a few hours of the exhibition’s launch to a foreign buyer, hungry for what could be called ‘crop art.’

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