Klausner sculpts her "Oreo Cameo" from cookie frosting using toothpicks, sewing pins and a tiny sculptor's tool. Photo credit Steve Pomeroy at jgklausner.com.
Food nostalgia, says food artist Judith G. Klausner, can be a rather dangerous thing. Yes, local, organic food and homecooked meals are good, great, wonderful, Klausner said she believes. At the same time, Klausner wants us to remember that packaged food and the ability to quickly create meals are big reasons our mothers and grandmothers were able to get out of the kitchen and pursue other interests - education, careers, making art. To drive the point home, Klausner makes fascinating art from packaged foods we all recognize - loaves of sliced bread, corn Chex cereal, and of course, Oreo cookies.
"Nostalgia for the culinary past--before packaged foods and high-fructose corn syrup--fails to take into consideration just how much time it takes to make three full meals a day from scratch." - Judith Klausner
Part of Klausner's "From Scratch" series, the Corn Chex sampler is cross-stitched on real cereal. Corn, Klausner said, was the only flavor of Chex that could hold up to embroidery. Photo Steve Pommery from jgklausner.com.
Klausner wants to challenge the idea that things were better back in the old days. Yes, she concedes, todays packaged food may not be quite as healthy for us as food made at home from scratch.
Additives and preservatives, not to mention excess packaging, are the hallmark of modern supermarket foods. Klausner is not denying this. She just said she thinks that we should not pit these convenience foods, which have offered women so many social benefits, should be pitted against local, organic produce, which may be great but usually entails more home preparation.
"Ideally we should work towards having a future where fresh and local food isn't more expensive and everyone can afford it," Klausner told NPR host Robin Young in a report on her artwork. " But I think right now having it cast entirely as a moral question really glosses over the issue of class that's involved."
Although only tangentially, Klausner also brings up the point that local, organic foods tend to be more expensive, and thus less available to the public.
Klausner got the idea of crafting detailed artworks from grocery store foods when she was looking at a Kraft Foods logo.
Historically, food has been inexplicably bound up with morality, Klausner said. The movement toward local fresh food has turned into a good verus bad contest that also bashes packaged food, she says, when the issue is much more nuanced, and bound up with class issues.
Ideally, Klausner says we should work toward a future where local food should be less expensive than packaged agribusiness choices.