Aesthetics and the senses / Food and Culture

Can Art Be Cute?

I confess:  I’m a fan of “cute food.”  I also love bento, which is a very similar hobby.  I spend about half an hour, every morning, making my son’s sandwiches into animal shapes and slicing squash and beets into little hearts.  I definitely don’t see myself as an artist.  But our last class has me wondering why cute food isn’t art.  Some examples I’ve found require a great deal of skill.  Some cute food no longer functions as food (for example, the s’mores image above).  There is also a modest aspect of connoissuership to this hobby.  The longer I spend collecting images of tiny cute food, the more I appreciate the skill and originality of certain pieces over others.

So, why isn’t cute food art?

I think that if these tiny constructions were disturbing instead of cute, they would seem more like art.  For example, the image of the shoe from previous posts is obviously art.  Yet if cute food were disturbing, there would not be a folder of my computer dedicated to these images.  I collect images of cute food because looking at it makes me happy.  It communicates a feeling, and that feeling is a positive one.  Could this be why it doesn’t seem like art?

Can art be cute?

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2 thoughts on “Can Art Be Cute?

  1. Verylargerabbit,
    I’m curious to see what you think of these peep dioramas: http://www.neatorama.com/2011/04/08/13-hilarious-peeps-candy-easter-dioramas/

    I’m particularly interested in the rather gory Sweeny Todd version. It’s not cute, in fact I find the fact that they are decapitated “bunnies” to even heighten the disturbing qualities. Yet, I’m not certain it’s ‘art’ either. In fact it reminds me a bit of Burke’s assessment of a man who prefers the sour to the sweet:
    “But should any man be found who declares, that to him tobacco has a taste like sugar, and that he cannot distinguish between milk and vinegar; or that tobacco and vinegar are sweet, milk bitter, and sugar sour; we immediately conclude that the organs of this man are out of order… We do not call a man of this kind wrong in his notions, but absolutely mad”

    So I pose the question: is food “art” if it’s not cute? or are we absolutely mad 😉

    • Krystal,
      I’ve been thinking about your response for a while now. After giving it much thought, I have to admit that I have no idea! As difficult as it is to look at something and ask, “Is this art?” I find it even harder to look at someone’s creation and say, definitively, “That is not art.”

      In response to your link, those works are not art, for me. When I think of art, I think of a purposeful creation that evokes an emotional reaction. I think that cute food is art to me because it makes me happy. I enjoy it and appreciate the skill and creativity that goes into it. The decapitated bunnies weren’t art for me because I didn’t really have an emotional reaction. They weren’t actually gruesome, it wasn’t really my kind of humor, and it didn’t make me feel happy. I’m not even sure of the skill because, being unsure of the goal, I am unsure of what effort is required to achieve it. I think that some others would find the images funny or disturbing, so maybe art is not an inherent value of the object, but lies subjectively within the viewer.

      There is one more aspect to art that I’ve been considering… whether a work is profound. I remember going to see an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings once. Standing three feet away from a huge painting of crows rising from a field, I felt moved. I don’t know why. But there was a sense of awe. And I have no doubt that this painting is art. Another time, I saw a print of a wild rabbit in the middle of a sixteenth century French palace. It wasn’t made by a famous painter and it was a strange choice of subject. But the look on the animal’s face is still clear to me, five years later. That was art.

      As much as I enjoy cute food, it doesn’t affect me like that. But neither does a still life of fruit or a pleasant landscape, no matter how skillfully painted. So… maybe art is a creation that moves us at a profound level?

      I’ve never been profoundly moved by food. Maybe food can’t be art?

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