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This Artist Turned a Bad Habit into Insane, Junk Food-Drenched Art

by Caroline Pham

August 15, 2014

Junk food dredges up some complicated feelings for James Ostrer. He vividly remembers his parents’ split as a kid. His father’s weekend routine of taking Ostrer and his sister to McDonald’s after bickering with his mother left his associations with Happy Meals decidedly…unhappy. Later, Ostrer found himself combating his stress with unhealthy food, which became more difficult to stomach as he got older.

Photos courtesy James Ostrer

So the British photographer decided to explore his relationship with junk food in a peculiar way—by dousing himself in it. Ostrer’s Wotsit all about project features close-up photographs of himself, friends, and even his father carefully glopped with a vast, rainbow assortment of fast food, candies, cold cuts, pastries, you name it, over their faces and bodies. The “portraits” are messy, fascinating, and comically creepy, like a cartoon roundup of childhood obesity culprits come to life, warning little kids to eat their vegetables. “I wanted to completely engulf myself in these food types to this extreme level,” Ostrer said to NPR. “The process of creating these was a kind of a cathartic experience.”

Wotsit took Ostrer two years to complete, and approximately $8000 for all the junk food. The subjects who required the full-body treatment averaged around eight hours of work for Ostrer, who had to work quickly to get his shot once he was finished sculpting his creation. Not only was he using colored cream cheese to glue it all together, but the subjects were usually only able to breathe out of one nostril while slathered up.

Beyond addressing his emotional connection to the junk food, there was another benefit to Ostrer creating these works—he kicked his penchant for the stuff. Now, he said, instead of feeling cravings, he just sees it as sculpting materials.

Wotsit all about is on exhibit at the Gazelli House Gallery in London through September 14, 2014. 

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