I’ve always had a fascination with housing, in particular the discrepancies that exist within housing. My fascination with disparities have grown and I think the world of social media has definitely influenced this. I made two images to highlight one of the discrepancies I often think of, food. I am someone who really enjoys low-quality junk food. I have an affinity for Cheetos Puffs, I had a thing for Hamburger Helper as a child and would take plain (not sourdough) white bread with processed cheese vs a more gourmet version of grilled cheese any day. That being said I have been privileged to explore some of the best restaurants in my city, let alone Canada. The flavours and texture of the food are something I could never re-create at home, and I believe high-end cuisine is a true art. I admire those working around the clock who can come up with such delectable meals.
My Alphagetti vs. the elaborate tuna dish by Guy Savoy got me thinking about the cost and quality of food. The image of the Alphagetti shows abundance, cheap quality food overflowing out the bowl and poured onto the plain white toast vs. the aesthetically pleasing piece of tuna and its patterned border. I also got thinking about the labour intensiveness of plating the food of Guy Savoy vs. opening a tin of food and popping it into the microwave.
These pieces are emblematic of a much larger story about food - eating to live vs. living to eat. These pieces are also supposed to highlight more serious matters: food security, consumption and waste.
I wrote and illustrated a book using plasticine called This is the Cul-de-Sac that Monique Built. My book explores ideas of of socioeconomic status, built environments and a few characters who take up these spaces are introduced along the way. The book is definitely tongue in cheek and inspired by the children’s book This is the House that Jack Built. The starting point for me was taking serious ideas and displaying them in a playful manner, the overall goal was to create a children’s book for adults.
I wouldn’t say I was an odd child but I have fond memories coming home from nursery school, eating Alphagettis and watching the York Region real estate channel. I would go crazy when a pool came on the screen, particularly a smaller home that had an addition and housed an indoor swimming pool, I was deceived at a young age ;).
I often looked at real estate magazines and was enraptured by the images of new developments, in particular what looked like watercolour photos of the homes. I thought that if I visited these new developments they would look EXACTLY like the painted picture. I remember my dad and I took a drive to King City (a township of York Region) north of my home to look at houses. I was taken aback when I learned that homes in real life weren’t exact replications of the illustrations from the magazine, to be fair I was quite young, slow I was not.
The Cul-de-Sac that Monique Built brings together so many components that are constantly on my mind-housing, class, consumption. My inspiration came from estate communities that you’d find in York Region, it’s more northern part where land is vast. Exploring these communities is intriguing, some homes are beautiful ranch bungalows and others are colossal mini Versailles, wrapped in gold and equipped with wrought iron gates to enclose the (almost always) gaudy compound.
When envisioning my cul-de-sac I imagined a narrative including excess and socioeconomic status, I imagined the characters that come together in this community and each home, and what allows it to operate properly. I also gave some thought to the hierarchical positions the different personalities take up- which brought me to the idea of the homeowner scolding the delivery man. Lastly I wanted to bring in ideas of excess, which I find have been heightened since writing this book, I am inundated with these images on social media-interiors, clothing and food (I do love the platters of fried chicken sandwiches, you know)?
Some things changed over the course of writing the book, it took some time. I would often re-work illustrations that collected dust. I found the plasticine would seep for lack of a better word into the canvas so I’d like to thicken it up. Lastly, I do work full-time and art has definitely taken a back seat. It’s interesting when I reflect on it, I had difficulty finding an image of the the app for watering the garden, as smart home technology wasn’t as prevalent at the time of making this particular illustration. The delivery man is working for Canada Post, perhaps I would’ve modeled this character after an Amazon employee (more in tune with the times).
I also had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to hire someone to photograph the book and place the font appropriately. It’s one thing to make the images but another to have print-quality ones, as well making a book file that is print ready. I tried doing the latter on my own and failed! When Matt (my husband) gave me a deadline for the book, I found an incredible graphic designer who took the photos and assembled the book digitally. I reviewed a number of different fonts and chose the one in the images. It was really important I had something light-hearted but also legible. Lastly, Covid hit the world and I had to hold off on printing it.