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Please Eat the Art

Bananas, mushrooms, yams take on all sorts of delightful forms in the hands of food sculptor Saxton Freymann

Pea pod caterpillars, bok choy buffalo, pear bears, melon tortoises, banana octopuses. They’re all part of an exotic menagerie that may change forever the way you look at produce. These whimsical sculptures fashioned wholly from fruits and vegetables are the handiwork of Saxton Freymann, a New York artist.

Freymann, now dubbed the Calder of Cabbages and the Rodin of Rutabagas, had embarked on a "quiet career" as a painter until 1997 when he answered publisher Joost Elffers’ call for someone who could carve food beyond the rose-radish table garnish. Freymann tried a few animals and "discovered I was good at cutting food." 

Using an X-acto knife, he deftly transforms garden-variety produce into emotive faces and amusing animals that he enhances with peppercorn or black-eyed pea eyes, beet-juice mouths, or corn-kernel teeth. He keeps his designs simple. "The colors and forms are so wonderful that they give you everything you need. The characters come out of the vegetable or fruit. I’m just nudging it to something it resembles."

Freymann works improvisationally: his sculptures are usually determined by serendipitous finds in the produce aisle. "I shop on the way to the photographer’s studio," he says.

 His fragile creations are pictured in several books. Play With Your Food is a romp through a garden of cute critters. How Are You Peeling? illustrates emotions. Freymann is working on Gus and Button, due in September from Scholastic Press. The story requires some complicated composites of produce. "I’m always finding another role for a vegetable," Freymann says. "And my family is very healthy because we eat the cast."

By Marian Smith Holmes

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