Paintings by Mike Geno [food art]
Mike Geno is a Philadelphia-based artist who, among other things, makes still-life paintings of food. The single-subject pieces, in series titled meat, donuts, bread, and "foodie" explore "the attractive qualities of various food items that we are sold in the consumer culture we exist.” According to Geno, the collection is directly related to his obsessive enjoyment of food and how that enjoyment connects him to a larger community.
Geno took the time to answer some of our questions:
EMD: You mention on your website that you worked in meat rooms at supermarkets at some point — is the meat in your still life work from the supermarket? Or maybe a particular butcher? If so, did you do this because you admired a certain butcher’s cuts?
Mike Geno: Initially, yes, I went to the familiar source of my inspiration. I try to address more than one thing, work on more than one level with my work and the meat paintings were perhaps successful for just that. I even had to resort to a super Wal-Mart because I was dead broke. Conceptually though, they're about consumerism and the aesthetics that it produces. Unfortunately, no, there were no butcher’s cuts to admire in the Midwest where I started the series. Back in my hometown in Philly, I have access to some sexy sources.
EMD: Is your still life work from the series "foodie" influenced by your favorite foods in particular? If so, is it something you experience then purchase later on to use as a subject? In a nutshell, how does your process work?
Mike Geno: Yes, being a foodie was natural to come into my studio. I tend to paint what's going on in my life. I don't really steer my direction or calculate too much on a series. More than anything I just use my studio as an extension of my life, a reflection of it sort of. The foodie series made sense because I had begun organizing a foodie group that goes around town trying new places that opened. Food is always a focus of my conversations as even when I’m stuffed and satiated from a great meal I often catch myself in conversations about more food. I am so destined to be fat.
To further answer your question, I choose my subjects by their attractive form and appearance, much like anyone chooses their food. I had once painted a series of rubber duckies because I was so curious why we have an inherent need to grope and even bite into such an object. I believe their primary design is key to why we feel impulse to interact with them as we do the attractive menu images at a restaurant or cooking show.
EMD: Scrapple, Tastykakes, and pretzels — you're obviously influenced by your Philly surroundings — so tell us, where’s the cheese steak?
Mike Geno: Excellent question. It seems inevitable but so far I've not been successful in ordering one that holds up for a few hours while I paint it. I always work from life with my food and other still life paintings. Honestly, I don't know if I'd hold up that long smelling it without eating it. I've developed a plan though. I may have to go to a good source, which alone is a Philly debate, and eat one before taking another one home to paint. That may just work.
Geno is also the organizer of a local Philadelphia "foodie group" that "meets to indulge in the best offerings of each destination" His work is currently available for sale on his Etsy store, where he sells affordable prints (food art and meat art priced from $20-$55) as well as original oil paintings.