Between the gross and the decorative

Around many artists, any nearby materials are forever in peril of becoming part of a new artwork. Many bizarre substances can be sighted in contemporary works. A vast array of trash items, technological detritus, children’s toys, bubblegum, and even foodstuffs like bread have all found themselves yanked from their usual purposes and put to use as material for creation. But even these atypical materials fall within certain guidelines for purely practical reasons. Making a sculpture out of cheese might sound really interesting, but unless mold growth is intended to be part of the piece, it’s not very realistic if the artist hopes the piece will survive past the next day. When the material is a food, it’s usually a food that stabilizes itself after the original manipulation; bread hardens, pasta dries, and beans and cereal are already shelf-stable. Dylan Spaysky took this eccentricity one step further, forcing perishable foods to serve his shelf-stable art purposes. His work is full of pickles and preserves.


Rotund, dark grapes float unmoving in murky glass vases. Cheerios become strange, amoeba-like loops deformed by liquid and the pressure of their transparent container. Other small food objects press against the glass that holds them, discolored and unrecognizable.


When asked what prompted his unusual material choice, Spaysky explained:

“I see a lot those decorative preserved things at thrift stores… I tried to preserve the grossest but prettiest things that I could. I don’t know; it’s just like colored-sand-in-a-vitrine … decorative but gross. I don’t quite understand why people like them, and it’s just my way of working it out.


This bizarre intersection of gross and pretty is vividly present in Spaysky’s works at MOCA Cleveland. It might inspire you to try some pickling, yourself! Here a few particularly interesting recipes to check out.


Marisa McClellan’s Pickled Red Grapes 

I’ve tried this one, and they’re delicious!


Kitencal’s Easy Refrigerator Kosher Garlic Dill Pickles


 - Rachel Krislov, Curatorial Intern

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