Tag Archives: Food

The Animal Kingdom Uses Color to Survive

Humans have it easy compared to other species in the animal kingdom. We reign at the top of the food chain and do not fear becoming another animal’s lunch. However, survival is a real concern for other mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish.

Nevertheless, today the animal kingdom is alive and well because different species have developed non-aggressive defense techniques. For instance, throughout the process of evolution, several animals have changed colors to better blend into their surroundings. Beyond protection, animals also use color to attract mates, and, in effect, prolong the existence of their species.

When we think of color-changing animals, chameleons quickly come to mind, but do you know that flamingos, robins, and snakes are said to have developed their colors somewhat deliberately, too?

For instance, baby flamingos are gray while adults are pink because the flamingo diet includes foods filled with carotenoids, which contain natural color pigments. Some of these foods include shrimp, crabs and algae.

Humans can realize this color changing sensation to some degree. Have you heard of a person’s skin or eyes turning orange after eating a lot of carrots? “Carotenoids,” advises an NPR article “are abundant in plants, where they play a role in photosynthesis. Different carotenoids make carrots orange and beets red….”

Diets rich with carotenoids shine a new light on the familiar phrase you are what you eat. However, the same article points out that “Animals… have a lot of… color limitations.” An Ornithologist from Yale, Rick Prum, points out that birds with mostly brown and gray coloring can develop yellow and red tints if they eat certain foods but they will not have the same luck if they want to turn blue or green.  In fact, Prum says, “Blue is fascinating because the vast majority of animals are incapable of making it with pigments.” Nevertheless, several species appear blue.

Since pigment-rich diets rarely produce this color, how can animals like beetles and butterflies appear blue?

The answer is simple: several blue animals employ optical illusions. A biologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Dan Babbitt, uses morpho butterflies to explain this phenomenon.

The butterflies have a 6-inch wingspan — one side a dull brown and the other a vibrant, reflective blue. The butterflies have tiny transparent structures on the surface of their wings that bounce light in just the right way to make them appear a vibrant blue that’s so bright it almost hurts your eyes. But if you grind up the wings, the dust — robbed of its reflective prism structures — would just look gray or brown.

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Many animals have centuries of diet and optical illusions to thank for their survival. By eating high carotenoid diets or employing strategies of design, animals have developed colors that allow them to protect themselves from attackers, as well as attract mates.

Even though humans have it easy, sitting at the top of the food chain, it doesn’t mean we know it all. In fact, we learn a lot from observing animals who know how to survive and thrive and adjust to their surroundings.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the Sea

Communicating with Color in the Animal Kingdom

An Art Project For Human Kind

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An Interview with James Ostrer

What do French fries, licorice and cream cheese have in common? For many of us, all three foods make it into our diets every now and again. However, it is rare to think of these items together. In fact, it takes an inventive mind, and extreme circumstances, to imagine a combination of these opposing foods. However, photographer James Ostrer creates fine art by combining these diet death traps.

In his critically acclaimed art exhibit, Wotsit All About, Ostrer uses odd but generally acceptable junk food combinations to bring grotesque monsters to life.  Showing at the Gazelli Art House in London from July 31 to November 9, Wotsit All About puts various junk foods on display in interesting ways.

The underlying message of Ostrer’s most recent art exhibit is rather clear: our relationship with junk food is horrifying. This reality is, for lack of a better word, sugarcoated by fanciful advertising and winsome marketing practices. However, Ostrer’s photographs reveal a truth that the billion-dollar junk food industry doesn’t want us to know: junk food is not safe. It is addictive and has the power to transform an individual into an unrecognizable being, either emotionally or physically.

Wotsit All About is unique in many ways, but for James Ostrer, it seems to fall in-line with the out-of-the box art he is known for. In prior years, Ostrer has taken his family to a morgue, gone to a brothel, been photographed by prostitutes, collected mattresses from the street and buried himself in “vast quantities of food,” all in the name of art.

If you only know his junk food monsters, you don’t know James Ostrer. In a brief interview, Segmation got to know the English photographer a little better. Through his transparency, insight and unique intelligence, we are beginning to see his artwork, and art in general, in new ways.

  1. You just finished a solo show at the Gazelli Art House. If you could summarize the past four months in three words, what would they be?

Totally Fudging* Awesome

*Except, Ostrer, in the midst of his war on junk food, did not use the word “Fudging.”

  1. Let’s travel back in time. If I were to ask six-year-old James, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what would he say?

I really don’t remember considering the future in that way until at least the age of sixteen which even by then when asked I would get really anxious and just say I don’t know. So in reality at six years old I think I would have been freaked out and just wanted to see my mum and have a snuggle.

  1. Your artwork is, for lack of a better word, unique. What triggers your out-of-the-box concepts? 

All of my work is based on a desire to find or understand my own concept and experience of happiness. My art practice is like being booked into a self-help course that doesn’t have any structure, timeline or preconceived ideologies of what will help me while relying wholly on my desire for positive change. The concepts that I work around are in direct response to what I am trying to unpick about my negative self.

  1. In your interview with Tony Gallagher, you mention “The Journey” required a “huge amount of research around human behaviour.” In your opinion, how does research enrich art?

I think it totally depends as it can be as detrimental as it enriches…..Obviously historical context and referencing can be very valid and often almost everything about a piece of work…. but as interesting as I can sometimes find this kind of work I can equally find it clinical and boring. I find the visceral relationship between the emotions of an artist and the thing they have made the thing I truly love in art…..so when I see a great piece of outsider art where there has been no influence or contamination from outside influence/research it can blow my mind away like nothing else….

  1. In the same interview you mention that you use art as a way of expelling your “deepest demons.” According to Aestheticamagazine.com, “Wotsit All About” was your response to a sugar addiction that resulted from, among other things, well-calculated marketing. We know all sorts of people struggle with addictions; many of them have artistic temperaments. What advice would you give the artist who wants to use art as a tool for addiction recovery?

My emphasis would be on the fact that it is a great tool but with all the many complexities and extremes to addiction you need a whole tool box full of things that help to work your way through.

I would also suggest regularly taking rain checks with your process of making art to challenge whether u are simply just excusing yourself to have a continued engagement with something you have a problem with. A clear example of this could be where people use self-harm as a form of artistic expression. I am not saying this kind of work isn’t valid but as an artist (especially at the beginning) you are often every member of your business so unlike if you were working for a company you don’t have a boss or human resources department keeping an eye on you so you need to do this yourself….

  1. What is your favorite color?

The few seconds of black in a cinema just before a film starts.

View more of James Ostrer’s work by visiting his website: http://jamesostrer.com/home.html.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and food:

James Ostrer’s Junk Food Art

Coloring Each Season with Healthy Food

Food Never Looked So Good

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James Ostrer’s Junk Food Art

 
Obesity is considered a major health crisis in the United States and many other countries. According to the Food Research and Action Center, “Obesity rates have more than doubled” since the 1970s. It has also been reported that two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese.

While media pundits and nutritional scientists speculate the cause of obesity, one source of the problem seems apparent: junk food.

Humans love junk food. And many of us are addicted to it (which some claim is the food industry’s goal.) When considering this truth, it is safe to say that junk food has changed the face of our culture.

One artist, photographer James Ostrer decided to explore this phenomenon with his latest series, entitled, “Wotsit All About?”

If you called the series horrific, he might not mind. Using junk food, he produced some of the most disturbing images you can imagine. Monsters.

Coping With Junk

At an early age, James Ostrer’s parents divorced. It was a troubling time for him and his parents did what they could to lift their child’s spirits. His father, in particular, thought Happy Meal’s would work. Therefore, whenever Ostrer’s father picked him up for the week, he started things off with a trip to McDonald’s.

Unfortunately, instead of lifting Ostrer’s mood, this tradition brought on a bad habit. Ostrer began turning to junk food as a way to cope with stress. As he got older, Ostrer noticed his health was in decline. This got him thinking about how his relationship with junk food negatively impacted his life. He also began to reflect on how junk food impacts the world. That was when inspiration struck.

Happy Meal Monsters

The result was a series of portraits that showcased grotesque monsters made entirely of junk foods like candy, burgers, and chocolate. Ostrer used junk food as material to completely cover his models from head to toe. After eight hours in the “makeup” chair, each monster emerged looking horrifying and disturbing. This was Ostrer’s goal. The photographer successfully made the point that our relationship with junk food is indeed horrifying, grotesque, and disturbing.

Ostrer also titles his photographs to enrich his message. Each one contains the letters, “EF,” followed by a number. “EF” stands for “emotional fossil.” This structure mirrors what is called “E numbers.” The Food Standards Agency’s code for what are considered safe additives. The reviews are strict but somehow, fast food restaurants keep managing to receive passing grades.

Ostrer’s monsters have their own E numbers, indicating that they are “safe.” But Ostrer second guesses their labels by asking, “Are these monsters safe?”

Is Junk Food Safe?

Health is a global issue and junk food is too, especially in America. More often than not, what seems harmless turns out to be destructive. James Ostrer’s work reflects this fact with a bit of a twisted view. Ostrer tells us these junk food monsters are on the loose, but instead of running from them, we invite them into our bodies every day.

By viewing Ostrer’s photographs, we are invited into his perspective; a perspective that he hopes will alter the trends of junk food.

Read more Segmation blog posts about food art:

Food Never Looked So Good

Coloring Each Season with Healthy Food

Thanksgiving Scenes Influences Art

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Coloring Each Season with Healthy Food

 

Eating foods that color the seasonWhat is your favorite food? While some dishes are enjoyable year round, there are a few seasonal treats that we crave in certain months. For instance, with autumn comes a taste for turkey and pie, especially apple and pumpkin. Winter seems to taunt us all year long with reminders of sweet cookies and hot cocoa. Spring is alive with fruits and vegetables that are coming into season, and summer is the time to grill meats and eat cold treats – like Popsicles.

Regardless of what season we are in, crave-worthy foods find ways into our homes. But we don’t reach for them because of taste alone; these are the foods that color each season. Baskets of jams in winter and bowls of fruit in spring become colorful, edible kitchen décor. But no food colors a kitchen better than fruits and vegetables.

Delectable greens, vibrant berries, plump tree fruits and unearthed veggies add color to each season while sparing us room in our waistlines.

Take a journey with us through each season, reviewing the tantalizing treats that come into our homes each year.

Summer

On a hot summer day, you probably find yourself cooling off in the kitchen. With a berrylicious ice pop in hand, you can treat yourself to a low-calorie, colorful treat.

In a recently released cookbook, “Vibrant Foods” author and photographer Kimberly Hasselbrink features “Summer Berry-Coconut Milk Ice Pops.” Add a splash of color to your freezer and bear the heat with this healthy sweet.

Fall

The rich colors of fall are best found in nature. One type of fruit has colors to match the many autumn hues. Harvested between August and November, a vast variety of apples line grocery stores each year. Pies, sauces, and salad accoutrements are all places where apples appear during this colorful season.

Winter

Winter blues seem to strike in the earliest months of the year. During this time, it’s tempting to let holiday sweets carryover into daily diets, but cutting out these cravings is easy with colorful, homemade soups. Tomato bisque, broccoli-cheddar soup and hearty stews are recipes that add splashes of color to this dreary time of year.

Spring

When the earth comes alive again with thawing temperatures and spring rains, fruits and vegetables begin to appear again. Bringing color into the home and shedding the holiday pounds is simple with green leafy vegetables. In addition to making salads, begin using lettuces to cook and present food. By adding lettuce to sandwiches and garnishing main dishes with the edible green, you can sneak in the vitamins and cancer-fighting qualities while adding a burst of green to every meal.

Eating foods that color the season 2Food is a part of our daily lives no matter what season we are in. Enjoy rich colors, textures and flavors that complement each season.

Which foods do you like to eat in summer, fall, winter and spring? Share which treats infuse your kitchen with color and add health to your life.

Read more Segmation blog posts about color theory:

Food Never Looked So Good

Thanksgiving Scenes Influence Art

The Stories Behind Holiday Colors

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Candy Art: We Don’t all Have to be Artists to Create Art!

Being creative is part of being human. We naturally involve ourselves on a daily basis with the work of creating. From building a snowman in the back yard, to choosing the throw pillows to accessorize a room, humans are in the habit of being artistic.

Artwork comes in all forms. It is easy to believe that art revolves around those who have mastered technical painting techniques or individuals who can create realistic figures out of stone. However, art is far more present in our everyday lives. One never knows when they will be struck with an urge to be artistic or be driven by a desire to create.

Hannah Mendelsohn from Juneau, Alaska doesn’t necessarily consider herself an artist. However, her creations are receiving widespread attention from many fans. She doesn’t paint nor does she sculpt. Instead, Hannah Mendelsohn uses something you might have in your kitchen cabinet right this moment: M&Ms!

 Image courtesy of http://candyaddict.com/blog/2007/12/06/alaska-coffee-table-serves-as-canvas-for-mm-art/

Mendelsohn, 21, is a medical assistant by day and a candy artist by night. M&M’s are her medium for artistic expression and the patterns she creates are mind-boggling and stunning. She begins by separating the M&Ms by color into gallon size freezer bags and then she sits down to create a pattern.

Interestingly, Mendelsohn says that she doesn’t ever have an exact pattern or plan in mind when she sits down to create. Yet, as indicated by the image above, her patterns are reminiscent of beadwork and display the attention to detail found in needle work. Mendelsohn invests several evening hours a week to her M&M creations, which is to say that her designs are no small feat.

Hannah Mendelsohn has no desire to become a full time candy artist. She is sticking to her dream of becoming a nurse. However, there is a lesson to be learned from this woman’s desire to create. No matter whom you are or what you do for a living, you can still be artistic. You can still create.

For Hannah Mendelsohn the therapeutic practice of arranging M&Ms into patters has generated some stunning creations. This idle pastime, plus a little hard work and determination, has placed her in the exciting world of candy art.

Ideas to Turn Your Candy into Art

1). If you have children, using candy can be a great introduction to the world of art and creativity. While learning their colors and understanding patterns your children are learning how to express themselves creatively and artistically.

2). Use the sweets in your kitchen cabinet to spruce up your home! No matter what season it is or which holiday is coming up, a homemade candy center piece can be a festive and fun addition to a room.

3). Photographing your candy art is also a creative and often eye pleasing endeavor. Candy offers a variety of color options and how you choose to arrange these colors can produce interesting photography projects.

4). Don’t be afraid to let yourself be creative

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