A couple years ago I found this beef chart / diagram in an old cookbook. I thought it'd be a really interesting / beautiful thing to enlarge and embroider, much like my cuts of meat napkins, but more involved, on a larger scale. This large embroidered piece could be a quilt, which would make it easier to manage, just carrying around small squares at a time. Realizing that I'm free to bring With Hands wherever I want it to go, it dawned on me to pick this project back up. I've talked about it before but I think it's important to reiterate: I think that we (westerners, really) have a huge disconnect from our food. I know myself that if I shop in an Asian grocery store, the foul and rabbit shrink-wrapped with heads still attached is really off-putting. When I was in Spain, the fact that the heads were left on the shrimp really disturbed me in a way that ripping their legs off never did. In as much as I often cook delicious meatless meals (have you tried Moosewood Cookbook's lentil mushroom walnut burgers? Sooo good.) I am a meat-eater. The way meat is sold in grocery stores across America definitely separates Food from Animal. I like things like this beef chart because they bring everything together, sort of ground our concept of food, of meat, in a sense. It's interesting when I make work about meat, I get a few different reactions, often a visceral one from the vegetarians I encounter. Thinking about where meat comes from seems to remind them why they don't eat it. Non vegetarians often comment about how they didn't know where in an animal a given cut of meat was located. I am fine with either of these reactions. I just want to reinstate the connection between food and source. Also: I really like that this chart tells the best way to cook given cuts of beef. I've ruined many a steak due to ignorance.
While working on this particular piece I've gotten a lot of questions, not so much on the imagery, but on the object itself. I don't like to make a big deal that I see With Hands as Art. I don't care if someone else sees it as Not Art, and I really don't want its artness to turn anyone away, so I typically just refer to With Hands as my project. Somehow, though, embroidering a meat quilt is just too bizarre for comprehension. I never got so much confusion when I was embroidering little animals with cuts of meat diagrams on them onto vintage cloth napkins. It seems that I need to break out the 'a' word for people to feel OK with a meat quilt. Will it be used? Most likely. Will it be art? Absolutely. It will be functional art, because I'm into that, and that is really a core value of With Hands. This is a little deeper into art theory than I had intended on getting here, but it seems that it is necessary to address. The meat quilt functioning will give it more opportunities to act as a catalyst.