Food has always been a popular subject for artists. A few years ago, the Art Instititute of Chicago devoted an entire exhibit to the subject, called Art and Appetite: Painting, Culture and Cuisine. West Coast artist Wayne Thiebaud built an entire career on his loving depictions of pastries, along with an occasional sandwich or piece of fruit. It wasn’t strictly an American thing either: 17th century Dutch painters were known for their still life paintings of food.
Sculptor Claes Oldenburg, known to Clevelanders for having created “Free Stamp,” which sits at the corner of East 9th and Lakeside, also used food among his many quotidian subjects. There’s a spoon with a cherry in its bowl in Minneapolis, and in Cologne, Germany, a giant ice cream cone is perched on a rooftop. He said, “I like food because you can change it. I mean, there is no such thing as a perfect lamb chop; you can make all types of lamb chops. And that’s true of everything. And people eat it and it changes and disappears.”
He and his late wife Coosje van Bruggen, who made collaborative works, created “Inverted Q” at the entrance to the Akron Art Museum. Its collection also includes a 1967 Oldenburg relief sculpture called ‘Tea Bag,” made from vinyl, plexiglass, felt and rayon cord that, while only 39 inches high, still proposes an object much larger than life-size. It also includes his 1964 lithograph “Flying Pizza.”
The museum has a regular series called “Cooking With the Collection” which uses the works of artists in its collection to offer ideas for recipes, including one for creating your own homemade pizza crust, based on “Flying Pizza.” And while it doesn’t have one of his several hamburger sculptures, the feature also provides a recipes for making hamburger buns from scratch — a project that could consume some time while you’re stuck in the house —