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Food/Art analogy

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Let me clarify.

I come to this discussion as an artist(university trained with gallery representation), painter, printmaker, food lover, diner and cook. When I speak philosophically about art and what constitutes art and great art, it is from these perspectives.

The intention to which I refer in the creation of a work of art is to make art. I began my post referencing the distiction between art and craft. This is where the intention comes in. In other words...the difference between art and craft is simply that the person creating the work intends it to be art. Therefore, when I wrote "the clearer the intention is in the work, the greater the depth of meaning and evocation" I did not mean the particular references in the work ie. personal or political or any other. Simply that the intention was to make ART. That was criterion #1. The same goes for the creation of great food.

This criterion constitutes an aspect of the art/food analogy because if the creation of a dish or meal is SOLELY to make a profit then criterion #1 has not been met. (The "lets not go there" applied because raw materials found in nature present a bit of a problem because no one created them, that was my point).

With regard to influence...of course not all art can make an impact but, heirarchically, art that does has a higher standing on the art heirarchy than art that doesn't. And an impact is time sensitive. It may take generations for this impact to be felt. I would argue that the Arepa Lady does make an impact because numbers alone do not determine this. She is keeping alive the experience of truly great arepas in a culture that might not otherwise have this experience. Part of the so called food revolution in this country is made up of many Arepa Ladies and their public.

I also stand by "the test of time". You may not care for the work of a particular artist but if they lived and worked four hundred years ago and you know their name and have seen even reproductions of their work then they have stood the test of time, at least on some level.

And I heartily disagree with "all art eventually ceases to be a vital part of culture". I don't see any difference between Beethoven's music when it was performed during his lifetime than when it is performed now. The meaning of the work changes as the culture changes but it does not necessarily cease to be a part of it.

I think the analogy itself has certain flaws because there are intrinsic differences between the two components of the analogy but there is enough of a parallel for this discussion to have merit.

Yes, life and art and food are ephemeral. But the unexamined life is not worth living, or so I've heard.
For chowhounds, perhaps (and just perhaps) the unexamined food is not worth eating because deliciousness is such a complex experience or er... an incredibly simple one, or.. who knows, not me....

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  1. stefany b.,

    i appreciate your clarifications. i think we're definitely coming to this discussion from different points of view; i'm a graduate student in philosophy and have done some work in aesthetics, so i've spent probably way too much time in a classroom talking about at what moment an artifact of cultural memory becomes a work of art according to ricoeur. a little too much theorizing; no actual making of works of art (unless you count a nice chocolate cake i made the other day).

    i think i kind of like wittgenstein's idea of art (i'm simplifying because i don't know his thinking well enough to explain it very well): art is a word we use to describe lots of very different things that behave in lots of very different ways. each of these uses of the term "art" has merit in that the term *works* for us in that context. i think that trying to actually *define* what art is in every possible case and for every possible audience is not only futile but probably impossible.

    i maintain that some people just don't appreciate food the way we do; does that mean the fabulous cave-aged gruyere from switzerland i just bought from joe's dairy isn't art? well, i think it's art. i could explain why it's art for me; someone else might not accept that explanation. that's fine with me; i'd rather that everyone experience true cheese joy, but what can i do? (my father would say "all the more tater tots for us"; i know i've already referred to that line on these boards, but i love it.) i will probably never experience the art of a fine cigar. i will never experience the batch of gruyere in 1956 when the cows were really producing some kick-ass milk. when i say life and food and art are ephemeral i mean that there are moments of beauty and deliciousness and then they are over; art *happens* and then it ends, but then it happens again and again and again. trying to classify and categorize to me seems like... well, i guess it just makes me anxious, like "what if i'm missing something great?" it's the feeling i get when i open up time out new york and see all the concerts and films i should be going to. i'd rather just enjoy the little piece of gruyere i bought and assume that there are things i don't understand and can't fit into a system of aesthetics.
    and i'll try, little by little, to get to films and galleries and restaurants, but i'll never experience enough of them to construct an accurate picture of the whole. i see art as being too personal and too sacred to be subject to definitions and hierarchies. that's why it's art, not science.

    8 Replies
    1. re: emily

      Except that the cave-aged gruyere you like so much isn't art: It's cheese. In order for something to be art, it must be intentioned as art. Which means that if, say, Vito Acconci or Mike Kelly were to move to Switzerland, take up residence in a cave and make the exact same cheese for their next appearance at the Whitney Biennial, it would be art, and would be judged as such, probably as an ironic postmodern critique of third-wave capitalism or something.

      When shepherds and cheesemakers make cheese, it is their craft, their metier, even if it is the best cheese in the world. The sensations of art may be in that cheese, but intent is everything...otherwise, your three-year-old nephew might actually be a better painter than Barnett Newman.

      For an artisan, the ideal is to make every cheese the same; for the artist, the cheese (or whatever) is used as a prism through which to see the world. And frankly, cheese is a lousy problem-solving medium.

      1. re: Pepper

        "Except that the cave-aged gruyere you like so much isn't art: It's cheese. In order for something to be art, it must be intentioned as art."

        you're right. there must be a difference between the kind of experience one has with good food and the kind of experience one has with art, although i tend to think they belong to the same family of experiences (along with religious experience and the experience of human love and perhaps others). but i still don't think the artist's intent is the whole story; but that's not necessarily what you're saying either.

        i don't mean to say that intent isn't crucial; i just don't think it is a way to get at the nature of what art is. it's certainly part of it; certainly. but there's also audience and medium and tradition and so many other factors that enter into the discussion that the artist begins to... not lose importance, but every artist has to learn to say goodbye to her work, to allow it to exist outside of her intentions. foucault calls it the death of the author. but of course it's complicated; i think of medieval painters who were virtually anonymous, and voluntarily so, but who would leave subtle clues pointing to their identity in their paintings, so they are both there and not there in their work. (rambling; i hope nobody bothered to read this.)

        "Which means that if, say, Vito Acconci or Mike Kelly were to move to Switzerland, take up residence in a cave and make the exact same cheese for their next appearance at the Whitney Biennial, it would be art, and would be judged as such, probably as an ironic postmodern critique of third-wave capitalism or something."

        only if they smeared it on a painting of the holy family.

        1. re: emily

          It's just that all those old questions were exploded by old Dada Duchamp more than 80 years ago when he repurposed wine racks, urinals and bicycle wheels as ``readymade'' sculptures. (If you signed your wheel of gruyere and declared it your readymade, nobody would object.) You are confusing the idea of ``art'' with the idea of ``beauty'' or ``meaning.''

          Cooking (and making love, come to think of it) feels very much like making art, like imposing order and meaning on the universe, like a profoundly creative act, but it is something else entirely. Good art may produce identical feelings, but that is the ... art of it: to create resonances rather than to be resonant itself. If you know what I mean.

          1. re: Pepper

            Or to put it another way: There is nothing intrinsically wonderful about art (or an artist). Great art is, well, great. But give me a terrific pizzamaker over a mediocre poet anytime. (Actually, give me a terrific pizzamaker over a terrific poet, but that's another discussion).

            1. re: Dave Feldman

              amen! and amen to this thread, i hope.

            2. re: Pepper

              "It's just that all those old questions were exploded by old Dada Duchamp more than 80 years ago when he repurposed wine racks, urinals and bicycle wheels as ``readymade'' sculptures. (If you signed your wheel of gruyere and declared it your readymade, nobody would object.)"

              exploded, but not answered. yes, they are old questions, some of the oldest, and i think they are interesting enough and even important enough to warrant discussion. they are as vital today as they were when plato wrote his republic.

              "You are confusing the idea of ``art'' with the idea of ``beauty'' or ``meaning.'' "

              no. i'm trying to introduce those ideas into the discussion; as you say, there are lots of experiences that are similar to aesthetic experiences. i feel like many of the posts i've read have asserted that the difference between an experience with art and some other, similar type of experience (say, with food) boils down to the artist's intent and to the extent of the work's influence and to the work's staying power. i think that is a limiting way of looking at art.

              besides, the question is more complicated. are we talking about "what is art?" or are we talking about "what makes art good art?"? those are two very different questions.

              and i think the latter was the one that sparked this discussion: is foie gras inherently better than a really great chocolate chip cookie? my answer to those kinds of questions is that i don't think hierarchy should enter into the picture at all, or at least not so early. foie gras is so different from a chocolate chip cookie. beethoven is so different from joni mitchell. what is the purpose of comparing them? what could one possibly achieve from such a debate? my boyfriend always wants to do that -- "what is the greatest rock band of all time?" personally, i prefer to just sit and listen to music and not have to think about ranking things or convincing someone else why something is so good.

              that doesn't make me lazy, either. it's taken me a year to convince my boyfriend that there are different ways of talking about and listening to music, just as there are different ways of eating and cooking or of producing or experiencing art. they all have their merits.

        2. re: emily

          I don't want to get into it any deeper than to say that perhaps Emily is really talking about truth and beauty rather than art - the transcendant element rather than the intention or hard work or careful training that goes into making it.Phew.

          1. re: jen kalb

            "I don't want to get into it any deeper than to say that perhaps Emily is really talking about truth and beauty rather than art - the transcendant element rather than the intention or hard work or careful training that goes into making it.Phew."

            i think you're right. truth and beauty are what i look for and enjoy in art, although the two don't necessarily always go together (sorry keats).

            i look for truth and beauty in food, too. maybe that's why i'm confused. idealists always wind up disappointed.