I spent the weekend at my mother's (maybe more on this later), because it was her birthday (Easter too, I suppose, but that passed by quietly without any celebration on my part. I celebrated Equinox a few weeks ago, a more meaningful holiday for me- though less chocolate -ocused, too bad ;).
While there, I came upon a fabulous treasure...
My mom collected recipes for a long time.. clippings out of magazines, flyers from grocery stores, and constantly ordered books and pamphlets from various food companies. At one time, you could send in proofs of purchase from just about any food product, and get recipes using the product, from the company.. maybe you still can, I wouldn't know.. anyways, my mom has a big box stuffed full of promotional recipe pamphlets like that, from the 60s about until the late 80s. The oldest dated material I found are some booklets about entertaining from Carnation condensed milk from 1958.
Mom was going to throw this away, because she's moving and clearing out stuff, and she has a zillion cookbooks anyways, which are much more organized and useful than this messy box of stuff.
But, this is appealing and useful to me for a few reasons... I don't really care less about the recipes (I love to cook, but not with meat, dairy, or eggs, so most of the recipes aren't really very good to me. Besides, I rarely even use the stack of vegan cookbooks I have at home. I like to improvise in the kitchen.) I do however, love antiquey vintage anything.. I find it fascinating, and this even moreso, because it's all my mom's. I can't believe she went to the trouble to collect all this great crap. She's like me.. she doesn't like to throw away anything.
I'm particularly interested in all the cool retro imagery.. Lots of 60s/70s housewives... old art and product labels. Lots of pictures of food, but that's generally less interesting than the advertisements, the out-dated slang and pointers on entertaining, and the illustrations accompanying a lot of the old material.
So, I asked mom if I could take the box, cut things up, and make a collage. She was really excited about this. At first she was kind of hesitant about my slicing and dicing the oldest stuff. So I asked her when was the last time she even looked in the box, and wouldn't it be more useful to have it turned into functional art that she could hang up in her kitchen as opposed to sitting in a pile in a closet somewhere? She agreed, and passed it over. She suggested we get together and work on the project together. I agreed, but already started some things on my own.
I think mom is more interested in what she can do with food images, as opposed to the retro graphics and captions that I'm into.... Also, she's keen on having something pretty to hang on her kitchen wall, I'm keen on expressing something with the piece. I think that I'm going to work on this one, and I'm hoping it will inspire mom to work on something of her own. Then we can work together, but I can still follow my own ideas about it.
As for what I want to express... I was uncertain at first.. I was thinking some sort of feminist piece, using all those great housewife images... Except that I don't think I'm really enough of a feminist for it to be sincere. And the more I thought about this imagery, and about my mother, the less appropriate it seemed- this was all my mom's stuff, after all, and she WAS a housewife. But being a homemaker was somehting she was passionate about, and looking back, I have so much appreciation for everything she did when I was a child. I have such a hard time managing my own life (keeping a sufficient ammount of groceries in a tidy house, cooking elaborate meals for myself on a regular basis, getting my laundry done in a timely manner), it amazes me to think of how smoothly, and enthusiastically even, my mom took care of our home and family. Critiquing homemakers for following a socially prescribed role isn't something I care to do at all.
I was also thinking about making a collage with a vegetarian theme.. I discovered that pictures of meat were much more prevalent and honest in the 70s than now. Companies are all concerned about appearing health-conscious nowadays, but I found a lot of old closeup pictures of things like bacon cooking, clearly soaking in grease and fat. I couldn't find very much really interesting material though, just ugly meat pictures, and some happy looking retro cartoon tuna from some canned fish company. Besides, a collage about meat politics would be really unnattractive.. I wouldn't want to display it in my house, and I'm a veggie.
In the end, I decided to just start cutting out things I liked or found interesting, and see what takes shape. After getting a few things together, I decided that the theme of my collage will be about aspiring to perfection, and the pressure that puts on you. I think this is really fitting for my mom, and something I would want to express in an art piece to/about her. I'm hoping I can express the value of being meticulous and hard-working, at the same time as critiquing the need to do everything to appear efficient and please others.
Here are the parts I have so far:
I found a stylized drawing of an interesting shaped jar, cut the lid from a photograph of a mason jar that's about the same size, and a picture of some jam. I'm going to have the jar lid open, and jam oozing out and dripping down the page. Then there's a fire truck with the Campbell's soup kids on it underneath, catching the jam in a bowl. I need to find a good picture of a bowl. I found the word 'Emergency' in yellow scrawling letters and put it on the the jar, on top of a cartoon of some tired women with big hair holding mops.
Another part was a picture I found in the Carnation entertaining pamphlet that was just too funny not to use.. There's a woman with a big pretensious grin on her face, holding a cake out to this man, who's leaning waaaaaay over towards her. I think it was intended to be that he's eyeing the cake, but it reeeeeeally looks like he's checking out her boobs... So, I found a picture of a cupcake, and cut out the muffin-paper, and made it look like the woman is inside it like a human cupcake. I also stuck a blob of whipped cream on her head like a hat, and am looking for a cherry to put on top. The man's hands are behind his back, I want to find a fork to put in them. Then there was a section of the booklet about hosting a party, where I found the quote "always appear at your most attractive and pleasant self" which I thought was a really tragic thing to say, and fitting to this image, so I'm gluing it on top.
I found a great drawing of a big yellow wood-looking sign, that says "Take a Can of Beans!" This is large and going to be a focal point.. but I'm going to cover the 'can of beans' words with 'take a break, you deserve it', or 'take time just for yourself', or 'take awhile to do nothing at all and be ok with it".Or something along those lines. It depends what kind of words I can find.
There's a zillion other things I'd like to use, and I haven't even gone through half of the box yet... I'll have to see what else I find to see how the rest of it takes shape.
I really want to try to do this collage with only my mother's clippings, aside from the backdrop of it.. Not outside sources, and no drawing of my own. Just glued words and pictures from this box.
I'm really having fun with the project so far! I think that it will be good to add variety to my portfolio, and I think mom will like it when it's done. I haven't done much collage before, but I really enjoy it.. I like the hunt for images that fit together in a certain way, and figuring out how to assemble it. :)
I think that if this works out, I'll have to seek out some other sources and do some more. I have a giant pile of tattoo magazines I have been thinking of getting rid of (just too many of them taking up space..), I could probably make something interesting with all that.. ah well.. one thing at a time.
--Rain Celeste :)