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There’s an in-demand artist who goes to Wal-mart to find subjects. His name is Brendan O’Connell. Maria Godoy writes about him at National Public Radio.

“Most people would be hard-pressed to call Wal-Mart a source of artistic inspiration. … Yet that’s exactly what artist Brendan O’Connell sees in the sprawling big-box stores. For the past decade, O’Connell has been snapping photographs inside dozens of Wal-Marts. The images have served as inspiration for an ongoing series of paintings of everyday life — much of which involves shopping, which O’Connell calls ‘that great contemporary pastime.’ …

“Wal-Mart stores, he notes, are ‘probably one of the most trafficked interior spaces in the world.’ In the tall, open, cathedral-like ceilings of Wal-Mart’s big-box stores, he sees parallels to church interiors of old. …

“As artistic matter, [Wal-mart is] a part of everyday life that seems to have resonated with lots of people. Since [a February New Yorker profile began a] media blitz …  sales of O’Connell’s work have jumped dramatically, he told me [in April]. ‘I sold more in a week than I did in some years,’ he says. …

“The people doing the buying, he says, come from all over the country.

” ‘What I’m struck by is this relationship to brands,’ he says, noting that buyers have called to inquire about specific paintings: ‘ “Do you still have the Corn Flakes? … I want the Maxwell House.” Whatever brand it is that they have a personal relationship with. And that, to me, is fascinating.’ ”


“O’Connell’s work is probably out of the price range of the average Wal-Mart shopper,” adds Godoy. “But he’s passionate about a project to bring art to the masses. The idea behind everyartist.me is to create a collaborative art project involving 1 million elementary school kids across the country. And all the recent attention on his Wal-Mart series has helped jump-start funding for the project … he says.”

(Thank you, Andrew Sullivan, for the lead.)

Image: http://www.brendanoconnell.com
Blond with yams

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Like most Americans, I don’t know much about the multibillion-dollar Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year. NYU professor Marion Nestle talks about its enormous complexity in the Boston Globe.

“I’d like to bring agricultural policy in line with health policy. Health policy tells us that we ought to be making fruits and vegetables inexpensive.” Her biggest concern is that those who produce and sell processed foods benefit most from current policy, which has had the effect of lowering prices for processed food and increasing the prices for the fresh fruits and vegetables people really need.

I have blogged before about the related problem of “food deserts,” localities where there is no reasonably priced market and people end up eating too much junk food. (Check out this post and this one.)

Today I would also like to point you to a National Public Radio story by Nancy Shute.

“Increasingly, metropolitan areas are creating or bolstering their food policies, recognizing the need to ensure that healthful and affordable foodstuffs are available for residents. Baltimore fashioned a food policy initiative in 2009 which involves multiple city departments and an advisory group of over 30 organizations. Priorities included the reduction of ‘food deserts’ and the support of projects that allow low-income residents to order groceries online and pick them up at the local library. New York and San Francisco have also created their own food policy initiatives, and mayors across the U.S. have met to launch a food policy task force.”

“In the summer, Shirley and Ewald August grow blueberries at their Windsor Mill, Md., farm and sell at Baltimore farmers markets.” Photograph: Amy Davis/MCT/Landov

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