Thursday, September 13, 2012

The primitive urge to hunt is what drives us to art fairs

Posted By on 09.13.12 at 06:41 AM

  • Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock
You may think these are blueberries in their natural state. They are not. Blueberries in the wild grow on very low bushes in mosquito-infested bogs. In northern Wisconsin, where I was forced to pick them as a child, they ripen on the hottest and most humid days of summer. We would don rain gear, like suits of armor, to avoid becoming mosquito meat, and swelter as the blazing sun turned the head-to-toe plastic into an oven.

The mosquitoes would get us anyway.

Northern Wisconsin mosquitoes are huge, more like vultures, and they leave enormous welts that make you scratch until you bleed. And wild blueberries are tiny—little indigo beads that have to be separated from their immature green stem-mates. It takes a lifetime or two to fill even a small basket.

It was torture. I waited in vain for someone, say the North Woods equivalent of DCFS, to rescue me. Surely some child labor law was being violated. And what for? Homemade wild blueberry jam, which never tasted any better to me than the stuff you could snag for a couple bucks from the shelf of any grocery store.

Tamar Halpern, Untitled, 2011
  • D'Amelio Gallery
  • Tamar Halpern, Untitled, 2011
We humans, of course, have a long history of hunting and gathering, with the hunters—weren't they usually the men?—getting the best of the deal. Gathering has mostly been replaced by agriculture, which is fine with me: if I never meet a wild blueberry bush again, it'll be too soon. Hunting, on the other hand, is strategic, dynamic, dramatic, and cathartic, and — although it's also obsolete — the impulse to do it still courses powerfully through our urban veins, seeking an outlet. It's what drives us to the mall, or the flea market, or eBay, to stalk what we don't need.

Or to Expo Chicago, which opens next Thursday (September 20) on Navy Pier, with more than 100 art dealers from all over the world hoping to attract big game hunters on the prowl for trophies like this piece by New York artist Tamar Halpern (at D'Amelio Gallery's booth), which reminds me of mosquitoes and bloody arms. Halpern's prices start at ten grand, but you don't have to pull the trigger to enjoy the hunt.

Read more from Foraging Week, this week's Variations on a Theme:

"Mix of the day: Jon Brooks's Summer Triangles," by Tal Rosenberg
"Dumpster diving," by Julia Thiel
"Ask a librarian, and then listen," by J.R. Jones
"Mushroom hunting with Iliana Regan," by Julia Thiel
"Forage every stream," by Michael Miner

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