Last spring I stumbled upon this story describing an artist who had made a mural he called a “Nature Matching System.” Tattfoo Tan used the Photoshop eyedropper tool to pull out colors from photographs of produce he had taken at his local farmers market in NYC. What emerged from this simple activity was a vivid palette representative of the fresh, whole foods he encountered.
This elegant and inspiring concept can certainly be replicated at schools, farms, markets, and homes alike, and people of practically all ages and abilities can participate in the construction process. You can use Photoshop and paint panels like Tattfoo did, or as I thought might be a bit easier in terms of time and money, cut up paint sample strips to make your own local and seasonal foods palette. Give your finished product a couple of coats of varnish to weatherproof it for a year-round outdoor display. If you are going the paint-sample-strip route, you could also laminate your art to create placemats, which may prove to be more useful in encouraging friends and family to “eat the rainbow.” Or maybe you have a lot of fabric scraps hanging around your house; use them to make napkins, throw pillows, blankets, aprons, or skirts inspired by the original mural.
Anyway you do it, I believe projects like these can have an impact on a community’s food and health consciousness, and even more so when that community is involved in the creation process itself. It’s pleasant to look at, yet is functional; it informs individuals of what a healthy diet can look like without any air of arrogance or aggression, which is a refreshing departure from some other recent media campaigns intended to promote healthier lifestyles.
Image credit: Nature Matching System by Tattfoo Tan (2007)