Monday, June 30, 2008

If It's Cheese, It Leads

As an English teacher, I like to think I appreciate a good metaphor. I find our second-floor school lounge computer's Star Wars-esque mousepad extremely satisfying, emblazoned as it is with the slogan Metaphors Be With You. This is why a recent news item has me somewhat stumped.

Sculptor Troy Landwehr has chosen a one-ton block of Wisconsin cheddar as his medium and reproduced John Trumbull's painting "Declaration of Independence." Now, if you're not sure what painting this is, simply open your wallet or purse and withdraw a two-dollar bill, turn it over, and look at the back. There it is. (Or, click this handy link! Never let it be said that I don't run a full-service operation here at the Dept.) Here is my issue. I don't happen to find this painting particularly cheesy. I mean, there is no attempt on the part of Mr. Trumbull to insert himself in the painting, or to make the signers look dramatic or florid, or to have anyone draw a sword or stand atop a chair or table as if making a heartfelt patriotic speech. The style is realistic, the skill level good, the balance fine, and the subject matter admirable. So...I don't get the whole Cheese Metaphor. Why this painting? Why cheese? I have to say, I'm even a little offended. Last year, Landwehr did a replica of Mt. Rushmore in cheese. Even worse! President Lincoln--Abraham Lincoln--is on Rushmore!

So, I am offering my assistance to Mr. Landwehr. I want to make sure he avoids the same pitfalls next year, those being A) offending American Patriots (me being one) everywhere; B) appearing to make fun of American historical giants (i.e. President Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson); C) completely missing the point of metaphorical humor/expression/irony.

Here are my suggestions for next year's subjects to be carved in the Cheese Of His Choice:
1. Dogs Playing Poker: These depictions have been the Epitome Of Cheesy Artwork forever. Let's face it. No one except college students, bachelors, or bachelor college students would hang these in their homes. The fact that they exist in a series is just incredible to me. Look, I think they're funny and all, but come on. Cheese factor is like...limburger.

2. Elvis On Velvet: Please. Do I really have to even talk about this? Fact: you can buy these off of individuals who park on the side of the road and have them draped over their cars. This one is especially unbelievable. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Cheese factor...Velveeta on a toothpick served as an hors d'oeuvre. With ketchup and mustard mixed together and served as a dipping sauce. Blech.

3. Anything by Thomas Kinkade, self-proclaimed "Painter of Light." (AKA "Painter of Crap" and "Painter of Kitsch" and "Painter of I'm-The-Franklin-Mint-of-The-Middle-Middle-Class") Here is all you need to know about this guy: He is now painting NASCAR race scenes. He's gone from cozy little cottages with flowered gates and haloes of light to "43 mighty race cars thunder[ing] by as "The King" himself, Richard Petty, waves the green flag for the start of the 50th Running of the DAYTONA 500®." Doesn't matter; his stuff isn't art. He's finally realized his audience and he's exploiting them. Cheese factor: Low-fat Kraft American Singles.

4. Precious Moments figurines. Honestly, what is the deal with these things? Normally sane grownups have cartloads of these; moreover, they display them in their homes. Where other people will see them. Certainly I can understand if one has a gaggle of these doe-eyed aliens as the result of a childhood collection.'s time to put them away. They're juvenile, they're scary, they're...frankly pastel and fetishistic. Get over it. Not art. Not even close. And oh so very cheesy. Cheese factor: String cheese. Because IT'S FOR KIDS.

Okay, I feel like I've done my part. For Troy Landwehr, for art, and for America. Oh, and for cheese.


  1. Oh Nance...I do love how you are always able to freely speak your mind! And your list of suggestions is right on target! LOL!

  2. Anonymous6:54 PM


    Judging from the picture you have posted of Troy Landwehr, I would say there is a big drawback to his hobby.

    When the sculpture is all finished and everyone has seen it and before it goes completely bad, Troy eats it.

    I think that must be a little like Easter when you first eat the ears and then the tail of the bunnies.

    I can just picture Troy deciding which to eat first, George Washington's nose or Thomas Jefferson's ears. Double Blech!!!

    Pass the Velveeta,please.....

  3. Why this painting?
    -It's for the Fourth of July( according to the article.)

    Why cheese?
    -Uh... the sculptor is from Wisconsin?

    Anyway. I'm thinking the Ace of Cakes needs to get in on the act. (I'm at the school tech conference and have way too much time in the evening watching the food channel, how pathetic is that?)

  4. Ortizzle--Sigh. You are so literal. There wouldn't be a post if I thought like you. ;-)
    (Besides, the sponsor for Mr. Landwehr is Cheez-It crackers. That, and his Wisconsin origin, may have much to do with things as well.)

    Nancy--Actually, Troy probably only eats the stuff he chips away. The final sculpture, according to the articles I read, is chunked up and given to local food banks. I wonder if someone also donates lots and lots of crackers???

    tera--well, what else would I do? it's MY BLOG! LOL LOL

  5. I really like string cheese. Not only is it fun, it tastes good too. It's salty.

  6. Anonymous10:15 AM

    "Actually, Todd probably only eats the stuff he chips away."

    All right, I'll buy that, but judging by the size of Todd I'd say he must start out with a 1,000 pound block of cheese to make a 10 pound sculpture.

  7. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Hey, Nance the above comment is from me.

    I don't know why my name didn't appear. Sorry.

  8. Q: How do you sculpt an elephant out of cheese?

    A: Start with a block of cheese, and carve away everything that doesn't look like elephant!

    Sorry. I learned that joke in 2nd grade (sans cheese) and I've been WAITING for a chance to use it. Better here than on my blog. ;)

  9. I just read in In Touch magazine (yes, I love the filth) about this guy. During my 36 hours of traveling back from Africa. Yeesh!

  10. You mean you took me literally?
    Metaphors be with you. ;-)

  11. Anonymous8:47 AM

    The woman who is renting our other house is a chemical engineer devoted to her career. She is also a friend and a dear soul. She has filled the house top to bottom with the kind of art you describe. There are five to six lighted curio cabinets filled from top to bottom with Precious Moments figurines, collectible dolls, etc. There are dozens of plates featuring images of dogs. And then there's all the Disney stuff...

  12. v-grrrl--good heavens. the dreaded curio cabinets of kitsch. i once knew a grown woman who had her husband make her a glass-topped curio coffee table so she could fill it WITH HER SMURF FIGURINE COLLECTION. right now, i'm a little nauseated just thinking of it.

    ortizzle--your first comment sounded very teacherish. i had to take you very literally.

    i.h.--start reading People like everyone else. LOL.

    j.@jj--one of my favorite books as a kidperson was "101 Elephant Jokes". I still have it. It is a classic.

    nancy--i don't blame todd. i love a good cheddar also. especially with a crisp granny smith apple.

    nina--which of the 4 showcased forms of "art" do you own? i can tell you're avoiding the issue.

  13. My Precious Moments figurines are packed away somewhere in my room at home. I'm pretty sure that's where they'll stay.

    And after looking at the dirty car art i.h. provided, I think I need to contact that man so he can use my car as his canvas! (My car has been in serious need of a bath for awhile, but luckily you can't tell unless you're up close.)

  14. jenomena--aren't you (over)due for a new car these days? that might be the impetus for a carbath. it will help you get top dollar if you take it in clean and tidy.

  15. Hmmm, it doesn't do anything for me either. However, I think cheese would be an appropriate medium for a John McCain bust. Maybe a hybrid of Swiss and the old stinky cheese. ;-)

    Oh dear, I think a Smurf figurine collection trumps a Precious Moments collection. Similar to Precious Moments figurines are the Snowbabies. All of that stuff gets lumped in with Home Interior to me. Ugh.

    Personally, I find as I get older I really don't want to collect anything. Being fond of baking, I used to collect a lot of cookie tins, but they have dwindled significantly in number ... now for parties, I have to scrounge to find enough.

  16. You guys have a two dollar bill??

  17. although you may think I would own Dogs Playing Poker, I do not. Nor do I own any other of your featured pieces of art :)

    I do however have several two dollar bills. Jason's uncle gives them out every year at Christmas as a family tradition.

  18. I did finally get my car washed. The big issue was that it need a really good scrubbing, and not having a hose at my disposal, I didn't think I could do it right. Then my brother clued me into the fact that the free standing car washes usually have brushes, and voila, my car is clean!

  19. I don't actually think that anything should be carved out of cheese. What happens to the excess cheese? The castoff cheese if you will. I love cheese and the idea of sacrificing good cheese just for the sake of "art" is a bit disgusting. What would Al Gore say about all that waste?

  20. jpd--as you know, i abhor waste. also, you know al gore is one of my heroes. i am hopeful that troy has "assistants" standing by with crackers, but this facet of his art has not been addressed.

    jenomena--i remain a fan of automatic car washes, where i can sit in my car and watch as all of that occurs. it's exciting.

    nina--my brother is a huge fan of 2-dollar bills. he uses them regularly. me, not so much. i wonder if he has any DPP prints...?

    PotU--don't you guys have a $2 coin?

  21. shirley--oh, i definitely agree about getting older and feeling less inclined to collect things. i'm positively ruthless now about tossing/getting rid of stuff, whether it's plastic containers or whatnot. books don't count.

  22. Nascar scene? I've heard of it all now. I've never understood his following. The paintings all look the same to me. Precious Moments have always made me want to throw up. ick. I knew someone that had kids that looked JUST like precious moments. That was creepy.

  23. I take umbrage at the Declaration of Independence in cheese, because my ancestor, Robert Treat Paine, is one of the founding fathers in the painting! He was brilliant, not cheesy. Also I just finished the series "John Adams," in which they brilliantly and subtly photoshopped Paul Giamatti's face in for John Adams. As for Kinkade, you couldn't even use real cheese, it'd have to be something like CheezWhiz.


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