Photographs by Kevin Van Aelst [food art]
Kevin Van Aelst, contributing photographer to the New York Times Magazine, uses "common artifacts and scenes from everyday life, which have been rearranged, assembled, and constructed into various forms, patterns, and illustrations."
Open-face Oreo cookies are shifted to resemble a yin yang sign, meticulously cut crackers are used to show world time clocks, finger prints are recreated with cheese puffs, crust on a cherry pie — and mustard on a ham sandwich. Says Van Aelst, "The images aim to examine the distance between the 'big picture' and the 'little things' in life — the banalities of our daily lives, and the sublime notions of identity and existence."
Like Gummy bears replacing the table of elements, sour gummy worms used to identify chromosomes, and krispy kreme donuts used to describe the stages of cellular mitosis; his inspiration (which is commonly taken from supermarket shelves) is nothing short of apparent.
In one of his earlier works for the Times Magazine, Van Aelst created “The Golden Mean” with common wonder bread slices used to illustrate his thoughts on the multiple meanings of white bread in American culture. Ladled with symbols, the works name refers to an ancient concept of symmetry and design, a “desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.”
In a local Connecticut newspaper article back in 2005, Van Aelst compared his aesthetic of work to “a middle school science fair”:
“It’s kind of like a demystification of the art process, the idea that art is something esteemed and revered that only trained, studied people can do.” “It’s not an intentional goal, but it’s important for me that people look at these pieces and say, “Anyone could have done that if they just thought of it first. It all hinges on the idea and the punch like in the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the timeless. Humor is a key element.”
The New Haven, CT-based artist explains a fan's interpretation from a 2005 local article where a piece using Velveeta cheese and German pumpernickel flat bread was seen as a statement about pan-Atlantic politics. He explains, “For me the piece was just about fractals and Velveeta, but if someone sees more in any of my pieces that’s fine too.”
As a teacher of Photography at Quinnipiac University, Van Aelst presses to students that talent can only take them so far: “Patients and obsession can be more of a factor for success," he explains, “For example, I can’t draw or sculpt, but I can put things together and photograph them.”