A moody scene, the only food being a half-shucked ear of uncooked corn. Some empty vessels, a grinder, a scale and an unlit lamp. Somehow still makes me want to go in and have a seat.
(photo by Anna Anna Wesley Saterstrom)
First “and Beyond” food sign added to the Archive, this is in Nairobi, Kenya, added by B. Johnson to the archive. Classic butchery and hotel. Hoofstock checks in but don’t check out. Nice realism, one wonders if the painter painted from life (so to speak) the meat hanging in the window. I wonder how many food signs are painted from life.
A burger and fries vacationing on a tropical island. The water and beach are sketchy, but the burger, especially the bun, is strangely lifelike, even shadows on each sesame seed. I’m pretty sure the fries are meant to represent the skyline of São Paulo.
As mentioned before, that texture of brick and cinderblock does nothing for a painting, but is that the Nashville skyline with reflection in the Cumberland River? Nice touch. The ice machine should move around the corner. I think I’ll add a category called “Landscape/Cityscape” in the hopes others arise. (photo by J. Eichman)
I’ve been stalling on posting “cut-outs” because I find them lackluster and hard to get enthusiastic about them. But enough cut-out food signs have entered the archive that one feels obliged to give them due representation. Dull though they may be. They appear more in rural agricultural areas. At least that is the working theory; let’s see if it bears out. (photo by A. Sebrell)
This informational painting highlights the tools and techniques of Italian delicatessenship. Stylish pedestrians on Chestnut St. in the Marina District are not just looking for sustenance but for food that has been stretched, sliced, tweezed and rolled with specialty rollers made by grandparents in home-countries. In other words, this sign in not selling ravioli, but artisan-ness.
It is as though Vinnie asked the sign painter to make a dog chef serving a hot dog, imagining a cartoon dog in a chef’s hat. But the result is a bizarrely realistic painting of a German Shepherd delivering the food, which is not whimsical but nightmarish in feeling. Still, a great shadow under the Sonoran dog.
This Dante-esque pot of crawfish is brought to life by a festive splatter of scalding viscera. The huge claws at the top imply that the crawfish masses are being boiled by a giant evil crawfish, the Punisher. Those two crawfish that are trying to escape can just forget about it; like the damned in this Fra Angelico painting from the 15th century, they will be paddled back in.
(Terpsichore & St. Charles Ave.)
The left panel of this grand butcher shop diptych (one could be forgiven for calling it an altarpiece) is less tense in feeling. A customer gives the side-eye to the flacid two and a half pound chicken corpse, which she’s thinking will go nicely with several dozen eggs and a slice of peach-colored loaf. Judging by the lovely Modern era ceiling fan, the well-observed decorative butcher paper dispenser, the out-on-the-town cap and scarf, this painting must date from the golden age of Pecos butchery (assuming there was such an age). The eggs remind me of this painting by Sir Cedric morris.
In this painting, no effort is put into playing down the psycho-killer associations we have with butchers. The searing but vacant stare of the butcher, the purposeful arrangement of ‘sharps’ and prominent over-head cleaver and hacksaw. Do butchers really store they cleavers above their heads with binder clips? They even went to the trouble of painting the two separate colored electrical wires that hold the bare bulb to the ceiling. I imagine the bulb flickering as we realize that’s not a pencil in his pocket, but a finger.
This is less a portrait of food as it is a portrait of the tools of the butcher. A trade painting. Along the lines of this painting from the 13th century (oh, maybe they do store knives above their heads).
The food takes a back seat in this little vignette. She doesn’t appear to like the way he’s looking at her, what with his work boot all untied. He didn’t come here just for that plate of smears and empty glass. Oh, or may he’s already finished and she’s bussing the table. That may explain his look of satisfaction, and untied boot.
(photo by John Baeder)
There are a number of signs that might fall into a new category: Frontal. They tend to have a macho and confrontational message. Italics and claims of greatness. Get your smokes and your burgers and sit right here in the window, but don’t expect any special treatment. The stacking here reminds me of the 80’s video game classic “Burgertime.”
Such incredible detail in this painting. The realism extends to the delicate blue and white patterns on the china. The burrito and quesadilla could be munched upon by a Philip Guston figure. This is part of an extraordinary triptych.
Going in with both hands. This is the first painting posted here that has a human presence… requiring a new category: “Food with Human(s)” Wonderful colors and line quality straight out of 15th century Siena. Strangely reminds me of this Simone Martini painting, which also kind of includes hand-painted food, though I suppose that’s a theological issue. Same table angle.
Same food truck as the “chips” painting below. It is true that I’ve never painted cotton candy before, I assume it’s tricky. I’ll leave it at that.
There it is again! The hot dog at a 45° angle. Funny, the linear quality of the food must make painters want to represent them at an angle. This hot dog has a Delta IV thing going on.
Ah-ha! This is the first example in the HPFSA where a single painter shows up on two different establishments. This is clearly the same painter who did this one at Alemeda & Sheridan.
(Wadsworth & Louisiana)
That sandwich reaches the vanishing point. I was giving a presentation about the Hand-Painted Food Signs Archive recently and my neighbor from across the street came to the talk. He has a collection of photographs of signs using superlatives. This one would work for both collections.
Well, there are those asterisks again. Why is that a go-to embellishment all over the country? Where do we learn that?
Popcorn, being brought to our attention by a pickle. I enjoy how the original image has been preserved by whomever was rolling on a fresh coat of white paint. This is begging for some popcorn to be spilt to complete the trompe l’oeil.
Very definite shadow and light source. This is not the idea of a hamburger, it is a portrait of an actual hamburger that you can pick up and eat. It has mass and takes up space. And you can sit in its shade during the long light of evening. The most trustworthy hamburger in South-central North Carolina.
The ubiquitous asterisk flourish. Shows up a lot in taco shop signs, here it is more a 50’s Americana reference. The solid black shadows are notable. If food has a shadow, the image has left the realm of food-as-concept and is meant to represent an actual food object. Do certain areas of the country, or certain social classes consider food as object, while for others food is represented as a concept? Maybe we can tell by tracking the presence of the shadow in food signs. The lines here are those of a professional sign painter of the old school, confident and practiced.
(Fruit and Vegetable Market. Cedar Street & Fleetwood Avenue)
The cinderblocks drive me nuts sometimes. The lettuce is commendable though, lettuce is often crazily represented in food signs (example). The tangent where the hanging sausage gently meets the ham makes me nervous.
The strokes that make up the crustacea are well-practiced; the turn of each shrimp back is believable, not just a half-moon, but with shrimp-like inflection, and in a single stroke. How did the painter learn that stroke, I wonder? It’s so region-specific. And the same facility is not apparent in the lettering. Not a criticism, just pointing it out.
On Hwy 9, just north of town. I pulled over to take a photograph of this sign and as I was getting back in my car, a woman came running out to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. I said I was taking a photograph of the food sign. She said: “You’re not the guy from the insurance, are you?” I looked at my old volvo full of art supplies and said “No ma’am, I’m not, I just like paintings.” She looked at me like she was sure I was lying.
This is one of the strangest categories in the Archive: The Incomplete Food Sign. There are others that I will post. Why did they stop painting? Did a war break out? Did the whole town run out of paint? It appears everything was fine while all the cupcakes were evenly spaced, but when the pink one made contact with the yellow one, the painter freaked out and couldn’t finish it.
This is only interesting in the context of it being part of a pair of schematic ice creams. In my opinion, schematic food signs are generally not very interesting. Like Pop Art, I don’t feel anything about ice cream looking at this. Or its twin. I think, yeah, I know what ice cream looks like, why are you wasting my time.
In the context of the cinderblock concession stand, the text might not be necessary, though an act of generosity nonetheless. The chips read visually as eggs, three-dimensional somehow, even though there is no modeling, maybe because they stand upright instead of stacked. The actual drop of the white wall paint over the nachos means this painting has been preserved. Just making an observation.
This is one of the first photos I took back in 2004 for what would eventually become this Hand-Painted Food Signs Archive. It is/was painted on a billboard on Interstate 985 near the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia. An admirable shadow under the food block. The five-tined fork was thrust into that chunk of food cube and next will be forcefully jammed into a wide-open man mouth.
There are hundreds of food signs in this ever-growing Archive. They have not been posted publicly or properly analyzed, but will be, starting… now.