In 1885, Vincent Van Gogh painted his first great work, "The Potato Eaters." In 1977 Roy Neary, played by Richard Dreyfuss, created a sculpture of a giant tree trunk out of mashed potatoes in David Spielberg's "Close Encounters of a Third Kind." That's about the extent of the potato's impact on art...until the state of Washington began to feature art works involving the ubiquitous spud each February during National Potato Month. In fact, the Adam East Museum and Art Center becomes a potato gallery featuring art made from preserved potato peels, potato still-life paintings, Tater Tot potato sculpture, and watercolors using water left over from boiled potatoes. This year's show is called "Baked, Mashed, and Fried."
Folks, we're not talking Mr. Potato Head here, there's big money involved. Well, not BIG money, but the $200 prize accompaning the "Golden Potato" award isn't bad, any way you slice it. Total prize money this year topped $550. And the top prize went to Larry and Joyce Oates for their work entitled "Larry's Half-baked Theory of Evolution." It's a diorama chronicaling the evolution of the prehistoric potato as it crawled from the sea to its place on the couch staring blankly into a television set.
Before you dismiss such tuber-art as mere tongue-in-cheek PR, be aware that people actually pay good money for these things. Recently a mixed media collage featuring a mother peeling potatoes sold for $225 to a Washington state pharmacist. The work was entitled, "How Many People Did You Say You Were Inviting to Dinner?" There are serious works too, such as Carolann Swartz's still-life ink drawings titled "Potato Study Triptych." Not since a Vice President misspelled it has the potato received such attention. The potato is a fun thing. It's funny looking...homely looking really, but with a friendly quality about it as well. And whether potato art is created by an artist or french fry connoisseur, their versatility as both subject and art medium can be pretty...well... a- peeling.