Thursday’s Tile: A Matter of Taste

Here at soon-to-end Thursday’s Tile, we’re exploring the world of sensation tile by tile as depicted on the Five Senses Bench. You can see the whole bench in person installed in the new Visual and Performing Arts complex at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. Please do if you’re in the area!

Today we have a tasty photo essay of tiles from the Taste Area.

Let’s start with that graphic tile up above about things gone wrong: as in, taste so bad the spoon is refused, reversed and sticking out of the down-turned mouth by the handle. How odd.

Our tongue has taste buds that sense sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory (or umami.) And apparently they have just discovered another — my favorite — fat! But whether we enjoy these flavors or not has to do more with smell. (And I do tip my hat to the fact that actual eating enjoyment might include texture and temperature, etc.)

We’ve talked about a few possibly reviling Tastes in past posts: the grubs, raw meat and blood lust of the hunt come to mind. The following two tiles enjoy a wide range of gustatory opinion: Sardines and Okra.

I personally enjoy these two sometimes. Fresh sardines are wonderful, and stir-fried, heat-seared okra is not slimy. It might be a matter of preparation and the fine micro-flavors that professional tasters of every kind are sensitive to. I know those nuances exist because ground coffee smells like tuna to me. Same esters or something.

Now fried eggs have a gag-me factor –it’s that runny yoke more than the flavor — but the two in this tile are SO beautifully done and are a perfect example of one artist influencing another. The eggs were already completed and attached when, a semester or two later, along comes the next artist who felt some bacon was needed. She even fashioned the bacon to fit a very tight and specific triangular space. When one tile is purposely placed next to another to create narrative articulation, the whole truly becomes greater than its parts.

Here are the label tiles for Taste, made by the thoroughly into it all and unsung, DP.

Notice the surround of beet, watermelon, avocado, candy corn and snickerdoodle cookie on the bottom right!

The Taste Area is nearly as big a Hearing, Smell and Touch put together, but it was the hands-down easiest to make tiles for. I would merely have to say to all those classes made primarily of young adults, “What are you hungry for? Make that!” and it happened. One semester all four classes worked on Taste tiles only, that side of the bench was SO expansive.

Here’s another melange of melt-in-your-mouth goodies, a complex passage found on the left front curve.

Find these: gummi fish, chocolate kisses, olives, black-eyed peas, more candy corn, pink marshmallow peeps, mushrooms, wrapped candies, a tea bag and Cheetos. Oh, and what about that asparagus and cantaloupe and french bread?

Contrarians abound, and one of them thought a Don’t Eat sign on a bench full of food was funny. And it is.

So quit dripping your snack on your keyboard and come along now as we move to our last Taste tile. It references both a comestible and artistic taste: the Campbell’s Soup Can(s) made more famous as art than food by the infamous Andy Warhol.

We have an example of (biased) Bad Taste…at least as greeted in 1962. It is truly from an era that ushered in a new sensibility and many were just not ready for it. But Warhol persisted (and how) and here we have one absolute icon of Pop Art, which might seem derivative and even a bit pedestrian today. Tastes change! But we knew that.

So this is a wrap on the photo essays for each sense area of the bench. If you started with this one, but are curious about the other four, click on Hearing, Smell, Touch or Sight.

Next week, to conclude Thursday’s Tile: what happens to public art in use, an up close examination and summation.

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Thursday’s Tile: Copy-cake Ape-a-tation

Here’s the original “Cake” by Wayne Thiebaud:
And here’s a shot of the tile rendition of it on the Taste Area of the Five Senses Bench:
I’d say it is a fair copy-cake ape-a-tation.  But only fair, if that is the only standard to judge it by. It is tentative, small, soft-edged and melty in comparison.  Maybe an ice cream cake version. But to be fair in another way,  it was never intended to be shown side-by-side with the original!
To the copy’s credit, the hues and relative values are actually quite impressive and almost give off the same luminosity, especially in the sunlight. That righthand yellow section could be a lot lighter and purer, but so?
Thank my artful goodness there are plenty of ways to judge copies beyond photographic resemblance.  As an homage to food art and a terrific artist, it works great. (Just like the version of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can up on the back of the seat does.)
Plus, the medium of underglaze and the changes wrought by the ‘heat work’ of the kiln are enough to render whatever control this unknown artist exacted purdy near null and void. It is what it is. Part of ceramics is certainly surrendering to the will of the Kiln Gods. C’mon Happy Accident!
Knowing all of this, if we then start asking about flavors and sensations in the largest sense possible, we can easily see how much this tile embodies the Spirit of  “Cake” and not just the Letter of it and take our satisfaction with that deep into our artistic bodies and minds, thereby affording a Greater than the Five Senses Experience, all from one little copy-cake.


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