A still life might seem like a stodgy throwback to art history class but a new generation of artists are redefining the genre with bursts of color, irreverent subject matter and shocks of humor. Blurring the boundary between advertising, art and editorial, New York City-based LAZY MOM is exploring the fringes of still life through the lens of food.

"Birthday Cake" for Lucky Peach Magazine“Birthday Cake” for Lucky Peach

After meeting through a friend’s art collective, prop stylist Josie Keefe and window dresser Phyllis Ma found their shared interest in bright colors, fruits and humor were grounds for collaboration. With food as a foundational element in traditional still life—not to mention that it is, “cheap and readily available as an art tool,” the artists explained—the duo set about creating striking and unconventional food images that encase foodstuffs in jelly, stack meats in architectural totems, and court discomfort with imperfect pairings. Using still life as a language for their work, LAZY MOM explores the emotional terrain people have with food by imbuing their favorite subject matter with human qualities and emotions.

Their most recent exhibition was a collection of striking images that draws connections between processed food and process art. Utilizing commercial photography techniques to highlight how processed foods have been manufactured for both visual appeal, Process stripped familiar foods like frozen waffles, cheese dips, and lunch meats from their retail context to call attention to the industrial and ruinous relationship we have with our food.

LAZY-MOM-AC-blue-and-pinkFrom LAZY MOM’s Process show

“We were interested in the shelf life of food and how through chemicals, this shelf life has been extended and in turn, affected the visual qualities of food,” the artists shared in an interview with MOLD. “We were drawn to the irony that with added colors to make food more appetizing, food has become less edible.” In one piece, “Easy Cheese,” a slice of bread is smothered in the aerosol cheese product and then lit on fire in an act of destruction that is as unsettling as the cheese product is itself.

“For some reason, there’s something very funny about food in unexpected settings.” -LAZY MOM

LAZY MOM’s newest work takes these themes one step further by employing video and music—there’s something mesmerizing and meditative about watching cheese melt, bread burn and hot dogs wriggle on a pristine background—to strike an emotional chord in the viewers. By disrupting a visual culture typically dominated by advertising, packaging and sales strategies, artists like LAZY MOM are creating an alternative space where food can be critical (and fun) again.