Pairing Off: Most Graphic Moments Of The Second Quarter

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Once again we pause to reflect upon the previous three months, in which we paired wine with Cheez Its, nachos from 7-Eleven, frozen taquitos and other delicacies.

Twice during this span we encountered nearly inedible items. But not once did our intrepid graphic artist, Patrick Michels, flinch. Not even when approached with an empty bottle of wine and lame apology for tossing out the can of Spam he needed to create an illustration. He simply rushed to the store and bought another.

Probably gulped it down, too--such is his level of desper...um, commitment.

So, without further ado, we present Michels' best work from the second quarter. These fine gallery pieces will vie for top honors at year's end.

1. Pringles
In a work reminiscent of Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Michels chooses to mingle classical allusion with modern imagery to portray psychosexual deviance in a culture that reveres the young female form, yet abhors pedophilia. Not only does he replace Botticelli's seashell, itself symbolic of female genetalia, with the curvaceous lines of potato chips, he forms them into the shape of a flower, just opening to the world. This is a glimpse of feminine innocence and youth--a beautiful thing into which he thrusts the hard, impervious phallic shape of a wine bottle. It's a difficult image to look at; one feels as if they are watching the actual violation in progress. Few other artists would ever address such a highly charged topic.

2. Chicken salad
Once again using his art as a social commentary sledgehammer, Michels literally throws glass at the local-regional-free range consciousness of today's gourmand crowd. The wine--clearly not an organic product--has been casually discarded in the form of litter, into a scene that, we imagine, had been rather bucolic only moments before. Despite the beautiful field of green and purple, it is the bottle--the garbage--that attracts our gaze. Despite the bird's obvious appeal for help (note its mute eye contact with the viewer) and desperate desire to run, we again turn to the commercially produced item. In one brush of the electronic pen, he has given us the triumph of industry over the earth--and told us that we want it that way.

3. Vanilla ice cream
Some critics saw this as a mere study of color, full of brightness and happy thoughts. But Michels had something more depressing in mind: economic imbalance and the end of what some have called the American century. In this piece, he uses Michigan (in ice cream form) as a symbol for the blue collar labor and investment of white collar capital that combined to make this country dominant in the 20th century. Vanilla--the purest of flavors--represents the ethics of hard work, honesty and family values that drove America to prosperity. In this particularly provocative piece, the very aspects of culture that made the country great are impaled upon the soft permissiveness of the West Coast. Instead of hard work winning out, sipping wine served by third world immigrants in some California cafe rule the day. Behind this scene, a swirl of gold on a sea of blue stands for the tsunami of outsourcing--globalization--poised to wash the ice cream away for good.

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