Who is Potato Mike anyway? And what do potatoes have to do with it? Long story short...
Well, what we do know is that potatoes and their popularity have been responsible for some of the most important events in human history. Was Potato Mike part of this? It’s hard to say. But, in the early part of the 20th century, The Great Potato Famine (18545-1852) ravaged Ireland as the blight devastated the crops so essential to the Irish. More than one million people died and another million emigrated to the US. Amongst them, former US president Barak Obama’s Great Great Great Grandfather on his mother’s side arrived at Ellis Island seeking healthy potatoes. John F. Kennedy, and I’m pretty sure Conan O’Brien were descendants of those seeking freedom from the besmirched and defiled potatoes of their homeland. While you may consider some of potato’s defining attributes as being equally suitable baked, fried and chipped, potatoes might just be responsible for some of the most important and culturally defining people of our time.
But then again, potatoes are no stranger to the spotlight–and controversy. In the age old argument, “Is a potato a vegetable, a tuber or a starch?”, for many years there was no clear winner. Of course now, modern science has revealed to us the truth–that it is both a vegetable and a starch, clarifying the most heated controversy since the flat earth question. Thank you science.
And that whole potayto/Potaato thing. Don’t even get me started.
So, how can we trace the rich history of potatoes through the timeline of art, you ask? Recently, as a nod to the essential presence of potatoes in the collective imagination, ArtnetNews reported that Kevin Abosch sold his photograph of a particularly beloved potato for $1.5 million. Abosch reported that after a glass of wine, his collector friend commented on his appreciation of the starchy gem. At the second glass, the collector began to wax poetic, and by the third, pricing was discussed. It is assumed that by the time the $1.5 mill was proffered, harder stuff had been broken out. In fact, that harder stuff might actually have been made from potatoes because, potato vodka.
The controversial vegie has long been the muse of children in the form of some kind of eugenic tutorial. Mr. Potatohead taught countless children the wonders of genetic engineering. But for slightly more grown artists, the potato has been not just a muse, but a medium. The folks at Crooked Brains shined a light on artist, Ginou Choueiri. Ginou’s potatoes possess simultaneously accurate and creepy faces and he’s made a bushel of ‘em.
They are pervasive throughout culture, across oceans, spanning time. They are in our fast food, the have influenced government and media, and yes, they have infiltrated the art world. What’s next for potatoes? Maybe Potato Mike knows.