Framed Foraging with Matthew Best

aired on 2/5/09 and 2/8/09:

Matthew Best, an artist originally from Connecticut, made the move to Washington D.C. not so long ago, and the shift from suburban nature to a busy built environment in the urban center of D.C. caused him to rethink his food and his art.pawpaw In his shoulder bag, he always carries a colored pencil and his notebook, where he has spent over a year documenting the wild edibles he finds in his urban environment.  The exhibition will be up until February 20th, at the Line weight show in the Ophelia Parrish gallery.

On the show, we discussed Matt’s experiences, some better than others (though he has never poisoned himself from his wild finds), finding, picking, eating, and cooking such delicacies as pawpaws (a painting of which is in blue and orange above), wild black berries (whose brambles are flesh-eating!), gingko nuts, and all sorts of greens.

Along the way, Best documented important events in his life, like the birth of his nephew, some lesser recognized happenings, and scribbles whose origin he can no longer remember.  The creamy notebook pages separated and lined up on the stark walls of OP follow the seasons, time, and taste.

Inspiration for the urban foraging project was partially by chance, insomuch as it started as more of a pastime than a project to be displayed, and partially a result of influences like reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.  People are unique in that we are relatively unlimited in our food choices.  Best, reading about the injustices in our food system, decided to take food into his own hands, and in the process, he learned a lot about the native foods growing around him, the geography of D.C., and the possibilities for finding calories outside of the grocery store.

Grocery store produce is full of water, he said, while wild foods are more calorie dense.  It seems like you’re not eating much, and for the energy you put in to collecting it, sometimes the work doesn’t seem worth it.  But even if he weren’t doing it for the food, Best has accumulated quite a collection of stories about food collection.  He plans to continue the project, public or private, and keep feeding himself with a portion of wild urban finds.  Sometimes nature can be found in unexpected places.


~ by hannahlh on February 17, 2009.

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