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Play With Your Food: The Kandinsky-Inspired Fine Art Food Challenge

Frido Kahlo self-portrait <em>Roots</em> and Just Eat Life's rendition of the painting submitted through Twitter.
Just Eat Life/Twitter
Frido Kahlo self-portrait Roots and Just Eat Life's rendition of the painting submitted through Twitter.

We love to have fun with food, and as you may recall, we recently told you about a scientific experiment showing that people who ate a salad arranged like a Kandinsky painting said it tasted better and was worth more money than a typical pile of greens.

The experiment inspired us to challenge you to tweet pictures of your food as fine art. And boy, you delivered.

Once we saw @JustEatLife's attempt at Frida Kahlo's self-portrait Roots with salmon, purple majesty mashed potatoes and nori standing in for the famous hair and brow, we started getting really hungry.

"We initially dove in with artistic determination, however, staring at salmon Frida gave us a huge laugh in the end. She was tasty!" says the Just Eat Life crew, who live in New York and host a cooking show on YouTube.

We were also inspired by the vertical veggie composition sent in by Jacqueline Langholtz (@ArgosIsland) of Charlottesville, Va. Langholtz tells us her boyfriend, Michael DeMonaco, was making a salad for dinner when she told him about our #NPRfineartfood challenge. Since DeMonaco is currently working on a home remodel inspired by D.C.-born artist Gene Davis, who was known for his colorful vertical stripe canvases, he took his Swiss chard, carrots and cucumbers in that direction.

And it turns out Kandinsky's Painting No. 201 — the one used by the British psychologists at the University of Oxford -- isn't the only work by the painter that's sent people off to the kitchen. Milwaukee Art Museum's chef du cuisine created an entire menu of Kandinsky-inspired dishes for the museum's cafe patrons, including a Bauhaus brat burger; shchi, a Russian cabbage soup; and cookies with psychedelic swirls.

Gene Davis' <em>Apricot Ripple</em>; ArgosIsland's untitled photo submitted via Twitter.
/ Gene Davis/Smithsonian American Art Museum; ArgosIsland/Twitter
Gene Davis/Smithsonian American Art Museum; ArgosIsland/Twitter
Gene Davis' Apricot Ripple; ArgosIsland's untitled photo submitted via Twitter.

And finally, our own Beth Novey (@BethNovey), a producer on NPR's arts, culture and books desk, sent us two fabulous entries.

Her sculpture, Blackberry Square, recalls Russian painter Kazimir Malevich's avant garde 1915 piece Black Suprematic Square.

Kazimir Malevich's <em>Black Suprematic Square</em>; NPR's Beth Novey's <em>Blackberry Square</em>.
/ Kazimir Malevich/Tretyakov Gallery; Beth Novey/NPR
Kazimir Malevich/Tretyakov Gallery; Beth Novey/NPR
Kazimir Malevich's Black Suprematic Square; NPR's Beth Novey's Blackberry Square.

And, we couldn't resist the patriotic fruit kebabs Novey made for the Fourth of July. Naturally, they look like Georgia-born abstract expressionist Jasper Johns' Flag from 1954.

Jasper Johns' painting <em>Flag</em>; Beth Novey with her inspired fruit kebabs.
/ Jasper Johns/AP; Beth Novey
Jasper Johns/AP; Beth Novey
Jasper Johns' painting Flag; Beth Novey with her inspired fruit kebabs.

"This was so much fun," Novey tells The Salt. But she has one regret. "I'm only sad I didn't have a chance to re-create some Giuseppe Arcimboldo works because that would have been so meta!"

Thanks to everyone for playing with your food!

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Meredith Rizzo is a visuals editor and art director on NPR's Science desk. She produces multimedia stories that illuminate science topics through visual reporting, animation, illustration, photography and video. In her time on the Science desk, she's reported from Hong Kong during the early days of the pandemic, photographed the experiences of the first patient to receive an experimental CRISPR treatment for sickle cell disease and covered post-wildfire issues from Australia to California. In 2021, she worked with a team on NPR's Joy Generator, a randomized ideas machine for ways to tap into positive emotions following a year of life in the pandemic. In 2019, she photographed, reported and produced another interactive visual guide exploring how the shape and size of many common grocery store plastics affect their recyclability.
April Fulton is a former editor with NPR's Science Desk and a contributor to The Salt, NPR's Food Blog.

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