125 paintings of American food

A new book from Phaidon explores America’s relationship with some of its most famous foodstuffs. Half of the entries are illustrated by Joël Penkman who created 125 individual paintings in, appropriately enough, egg tempura

A new book from Phaidon explores America’s relationship with some of its most famous foodstuffs. Half of the entries are illustrated by Joël Penkman who created 125 individual paintings in, appropriately enough, egg tempura…

Food writer and critic Colman Andrews’ book, The Taste of America, details 250 food products that are manufactured in the country and are currently on sale.

Penkman, who is represented by the Handsome Frank agency, was commissioned to depict them in paint, a process which took six months to complete. Preferring to work from real life, this involved dispatching numerous food hampers to her studio in Liverpool.

“When a food parcel arrived and we got to try the foods – chocolate mice, Junior Mints, Moon Pie, chocolate truffles, Goo Goo clusters, cashew butter, cheese crackers – it felt like Christmas!” says Penkman.

“And [I recall] how disappointing it was when an empty jar or package arrived – birch beer, apple cider, carolina gold rice, schnecken, liverwurst, flour. Usually the empty ones were liquids, meats, cheeses or something heavy.”

Originally from New Zealand, Penkman now lives and works in the UK. An avid painter of both foodstuffs and packaging, on her blog she writes that “food triggers memories and emotion, I like that people can bring something of themselves to the artworks.”

“My favourite medium is egg tempera,” she say. “It is very time consuming as I make the gesso to prepare my boards and grind my own paint to mix, but the results are worth it.”

For this project, Penkman also made her own hot dogs and grew the sun gold tomatoes in her greenhouse.

The full series of paintings can be seen on Penkman’s website, joelpenkman.com; originals will apparently be available to purchase soon.

Penkman is represented by agency, Handsome Frank. Phaidon; £24.95. Available from phaidon.com.

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