This magnificent work of art was discovered in the Tower Restaurant of Lake Placid, Florida. It's a painting of onions. Down the hall to the left and across from the women's restroom is a similar painting of asparagus. While absurdly mundane, they are unarguably beyond any shadow of a doubt, one-hundred percent perfect for a nice, sit-down restaurant. Why? Well... they're pictures of food...
Still lifes rarely receive a great deal of credit in the art world. They can be as complex and detailed as portraits, or landscapes, or random dreamspun images straight from the imagination, but a bowl of fruit tends to represent little more than a bowl of fruit in the mind of your average passerby. Often times, the poor still life is delegated to the role of "exercise." It's good practice for artists, though its probably not going to be considered their masterpiece.
You may look at these onions or their asparagus counterparts (not pictured because I don't like to stand outside women's restrooms in public wielding a camera) and say, "Why would anyone paint an onion?" And you would be both reasonable and unfair. Onions are not exciting models, but in no way do they offend the senses. A simple still life of food is aesthetically pleasing and in good taste...especially considering location. Sitting in a restaurant where food is served, this image represents moderation, cleanliness, and healthy eating.
If one were to change the location, the meaning of the artwork would change drastically. Placed inside a Wendy's, it would be completely inappropriate and at odds with the large portions of mostly unhealthy foods. It would act as a grim sentry in the household of a bulimic eater. It could be a positive reminder kept by an enthusiastic vegetarian. And that shifting identity is something that makes a still life special when compared to some more famous or classic works.
Simple art has a much easier time being judged with its surroundings than let's say...The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. When you look at The Starry Night, you are looking at a famous piece of art, a masterpiece, one of the greatest works in the whole of human history. If it was hanging in a restaurant however, it would probably contribute little or nothing to the actual surroundings, because when you look at it, you typically judge it in abstract. It's The Starry Night, not part of a restaurant. The onions are more easily identified with the restaurant than their creator or clout.
Most works like still lifes tend to go unnoticed in their surroundings and that's okay. You're probably not going to see many still lifes being displayed as the centerpiece of a room. They'll be part of the decorations. Something like that onion painting adds to the scenery without dominating it. Not every work of art is meant to be closely studied, but that doesn't take away its value.
|Onions by Van Gogh. My entire argument is moot...|