David Gibbs and his Jell-O ‘stache
“Well, I use mustache wax every day,” said David Gibbs. All he had to do was add a sprinkle of gelatin powder and- voila!- a magnificent blue caterpillar. It turns out Jell-O has that bedazzling effect on most things. Perhaps somewhere on its list of mysterious ingredients (disodium phosphate? fumaric acid?) is the scientific term for fairy dust.
Need more evidence than a vibrant upper lip? Last night, Gibbs, a horde of local creatives and a giant mass of Jell-O turned the Maude Kerns gallery into a constantly jiggling, entirely edible wonderland.
…Or at least that’s one version of what happened.
“What’s in Jell-O exactly?” I wondered aloud, inspecting a “blackberry fusion”-flavored box of the stuff. Before my lovely companion Melissa could respond, two gruff gents at the end of the bar chimed in.
“I hear it’s got cow hooves!” said one.
“Animal products,” agreed the other.
“All I know is processed fruits are bad for you,” said the bartender, inspecting one of the boxes I’d scavenged from my cupboard.
Melissa and I were doing research of sorts at the Tiny Tavern on Blair Blvd. She’s a local food writer who pens Two Pots of Coffee and a Slice of Pie at Midnight and Dispatch from a Yellow Bicycle when she’s not, you know, writing articles for the Register-Guard and food guides for Eugene Magazine.
I’d thought it was only natural to invite a food blogger to a Jell-O art show, but now I was facing an undeniable truth: Jell-O is hardly natural. In more discerning circles, it may not even be considered food.
“We built this city on Jell-O rolls,” unknown
What, then, to make of the Kerns’ annual competition and its strictly mandated medium? When you’re molding to this year’s themes of “Occupy Jell-O” and “End of the World,” perhaps the more unnatural qualities of the goo actually work with you. What could show the instability of a recession or the meltdown of the apocalypse better than a material that turns into a slimy puddle before your eyes?
I have no doubt that 80’s band Starship, if they’d thought of it, would have included a Jell-O metropolis in their fiercely earnest video for “We Built This City.” “Someone always playing corporation games/Who cares they’re always changing corporation names.” They were like so ahead of their time, man.
16, David Gibbs
16 had wholly crossed the bridge from the snackable to the sculptural, and it wasn’t looking back. Gibbs started with 8 pounds of gelatin and several ponds of food coloring, applied heat and created this Seuss-meets-and-tangles-with-Tim Burton confection.
“It smells like spray paint,” said Melissa, taking a long whiff like the good food critic she is. Okay, so maybe “confection” is the wrong word.
Occupied, Jeff & Leah
But look yonder- a twist served sunny side up! Though eating Jell-O makes her queasy, Melissa was instantly salivating when she saw this hyper realistic and über gelatinous breakfast layout.
“They even made Jell-O coffee!” marveled Melissa.
We deemed Occupied the winner of the night, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Jeff and Leah had successfully closed the gap between art and food using the most unreliable of glues.
We The Peeps (Occupy Jell-O Zone), James Carwile
…Or at least they almost did. If only this marshmallow death pit hadn’t been jiggling nearby. The slimy little Peeps reminded me of the body parts floating in jars from the laboratories of movie mad scientists. Perhaps Melissa was thinking the same thing.
“How much of that Jell-O could you eat?” I asked.
“How much could I eat, or how much could I eat without puking?” she asked.
“Without puking,” I said.
“The blue Peep in the back row,” she answered.
If all this talk is making you a little green, take heart. Jell-O probably doesn’t look much different on the return journey.
So there you have it: the art has been reviewed, and the food pooh-poohed. For safety reasons.