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Work by Andrzej Maciejewski and Lynn Richardson at Buffalo Arts Studio

From photographer Andrzej Maciejewski's "Garden of Eden" series.

Paradise and Free Trade

The lushly colorful photos of Andrzej Maciejewski on exhibit at the Buffalo Arts Studio are in the art historical category and venerable tradition of “still life.” Fruit or vegetables on a plate on a table, basically. Maybe with a cup or glass or utensil thrown in to balance the edibles arrangement.

But here with a difference. A slightly jarring incongruity in terms of the venerable tradition. The fruits and vegetable all have their individual little thumbprint stickers still on them, sometimes indicating the agricultural production or harvesting or marketing concern that brought these items to us, but also—and we may never have noticed this, or thought about it, but the artwork ID labels point it out—on each little sticker, a number indicating the country of origin of the item.

The sensuous colors of the photos evoke Renaissance art, the new technique of the time of oil paint on canvas. More recollection of Renaissance art—Vermeer in particular—in the tableware regularly occurring in association with the main subject matter comestibles. Simple, serviceable, attractive visually and in a tactile way, ceramic and glasswares. No plasticware here.

From photographer Andrzej Maciejewski's "Garden of Eden" series.

One of the photos—with the fruits and vegetables strung up somehow in a more or less vertical orientation—seems to allude to Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who painted bizarre but intriguing human portrait facsimiles composed entirely of food items.

The little stickers are a comment on the somewhat unnatural way we demand and have access these days to food from all over the world, not caring or knowing that the best food is local, so food from afar is second-best at best. But then we go for looks more than taste. The tomatoes in the supermarket look terrific, but taste like cardboard. We accept that.

Food in the photos comes from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, Italy, China, as well as Canada and the United States. The US fare—based on further information on some of the stickers—is mostly from California, Arizona, and Texas.

The place of origin information in conjunction with the Renaissance art lustrous good looks of these food items make us consider the various techniques—from wax coating to likely genetic modification—employed to make the items appear on the supermarket shelves, and even make it to the table, in apparent peak of perfection condition. Embalming techniques or worse.

The reference becomes to death rather than life. Other death references in the still life photos—out of an iconographical tradition that dates back at least to the Renaissance—include overturned, that is, emptied out, drinking vessels, and cracked and chipped ceramic pottery.

But the mortality references tap into a deep sensibility about traditional still lifes. The captured moment of time implying the moment before, but especially the moment—moments—after the perfect moment, as defined by the capture. And where these moments lead.

Traditional still lifes didn’t put the matter—at least so explicitly—in terms of the food we eat. What we’re doing to it. What it’s doing to us. Where all that leads.

Also on display at the Buffalo Arts Studio is a futuristic installation by Lynn Richardson. The conceit seems to be that, following global warming, what will occur is a new ice age. The precise mechanics of this environmental topsy-turvy aren’t so clear. Apparently due to all the icebergs floating around the world’s oceans as a result of the breakup of the glaciers.

The installation, the art, consists of artifacts manufactured and for sale to exploit this new environmental situation by an entrepreneurial organization called the Inter-Glacial Free Trade Agency. There’s even an order form (for real, it looks like). You can order any of several varieties of Chapstick (in flavors Winter Melon, Frosty Cherry, or Snowberry) at $11.50 each; disposable hand warmers at $17.98 each; a glacial melt water bottle for $20; or an artificial fur sleeping bag with security anchor for $500. The security anchor because, what with the rise in ocean water levels due to the melting, stuff tends to float off.

The agency can also provide set you up with relocation travel brochures and site-specific travel kits, including a selection of real estate listings, to your choice of South American country, for $250 per kit.

A major part of the art installation consists of demo apparatus on a proprietary technique—lots of plastic tubes and beakers—to extract what’s called “artificial substance” from a variety of different fruits. But pricey, at $99.99 per substance.

Both exhibits continue through March 16.

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