The veggie person

When I was a small child, I was always rearranging the vegetables on my plate to form patterns and shapes that only I knew meant something. But always, my mother's stern voice would break in, ``Roy, don't play with your food!'' The problem is, I think, that parents don't always know what's going on inside your thinking when you're young. Sometimes they forget what it was like to rearrange veggies in special forms that only you can see.

The man who painted the picture you see on this page has not forgotten what it's like to let your imagination loose and create something unique and very special.

His name is Giuseppe Arcimboldo and he was born in Milan, Italy. He probably came from a good family, which no doubt also wanted him to stick to the rules about vegetables. But imagination doesn't always work well with rules. This artist might be called the original Surrealist - that is, an artist who reveals his art in a way that doesn't conform to the shapes and expressions we normally expect to see.

Although he was at his peak in the 16th century, it wasn't until the 19th century that his work was rediscovered and people began to appreciate his painting.

At first, I thought how appropriate it was that he should show an apple to depict the cheek. Then my wife said it was a peach. So you can see how two imaginations could see the same thing in different ways, yet come up with the same picture. I find it amazing that the artist can come up with so many fruits and vegetables, yet show so clearly the human face without confusion. But imagination is like that. If you half close your eyes as you look at this painting, the face becomes all the merrier!

This painting also showed me that the person created by the artist could find nothing wrong in being called ``cucumber nose'' or, although not shown, find no offense in being given a ``cauliflower ear.'' Sometimes what we think isn't true can often be seen in another way, and then we can accept what others think, because we know the difference.

Something else that struck me about this painting was that I always thought that having parents sew name tags on your clothing was another rule that parents made up to keep you in line. In the original work of art, the artist's name appears woven into the figure's straw collar, impossible to see in this small reproduction. What an unusual way to identify yourself. And the date of the painting is on the shoulder pad of his straw suit.

This one is called ``Summer,'' and is one of four representing the seasons of the year. All of the paintings were bust-length figures constructed of objects fitting the theme of the season. Now that you know this, do you think you could draw or paint one of these figures for winter? Why not try your skill, your imagination - and your vegetables?

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