Rice, Beans And Toilet Paper: Nathan Slate Joseph's Art Is All About The Essentials - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1708640

Rice, Beans And Toilet Paper: Nathan Slate Joseph’s Art Is All About The Essentials

icon 6 Photos
Nathan Slate Joseph

Nathan Slate Joseph "Essential Black," 2020. Medium: is black beans and rice.

Artist Nathan Slate Joseph.

Artist Nathan Slate Joseph. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Nathan Slate Joseph.

Artist Nathan Slate Joseph. ANNETTE HINKLE

Nathan Slate Joseph

Nathan Slate Joseph "Essential 1," 2020. Medium is white rice and toilet paper.

Nathan Slate Joseph's

Nathan Slate Joseph's "Essential Yellow, Red and Black," 2020. Medium is white rice, red beans, black beans.

Nathan Slate Joseph's

Nathan Slate Joseph's "Essential Yellow & Black," 2020. Medium is white rice and black beans.

authorAnnette Hinkle on Jul 1, 2020

Rice and beans … they’re as essential as toilet paper in this era of pandemic.

That’s why Sag Harbor sculptor and artist Nathan Slate Joseph decided to use all three of those items in his latest creative endeavor.

Joseph’s large scale “paintings” are created from dried and dyed beans, rice and toilet paper and are collectively part of an exhibition called “Essentials,” which opens this weekend at Keyes Gallery, adjacent to The American Hotel in Sag Harbor.

“What is the most popular painting in the world?” asked Joseph during a recent late night visit to the gallery. “The Mona Lisa?

“The fact is, it’s a painting you can just imitate.”

With that, he held his hands up to the side of his face (an unlit cigar in one of them) and opened his mouth wide, offering an uncannily accurate reproduction of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream.’”

“A painting should have more than one aspect,” he noted. “Where else can you see motion that creates art? I thought of color.”

As an artist, Joseph, who came to New York from his native Israel in the 1960s and was inspired by the colors he encountered on a trip to Mexico in the 1970s, is a big fan of working with available materials, like scrap metal. He’s also keenly in tune with issues of importance in developing countries, among them globalization, immigration and climate change.

“My approach has always been organic in terms of color, material, everything. I use what is available and inexpensive, what’s inclusive, not exclusive, and what marries the outdoor with the indoor,” said Joseph. “I saw something on TV about Africa and then something about rice and beans came on. I realized that’s the essence of people — 90 percent of the world eats rice and beans.

“I looked at flat beans laying on the table and I thought, beans, who doesn’t know about beans and rice? It took me back to ‘Who doesn’t know the Scream?’” he said. “So two years ago, I started to play with it. I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can do something with beans on a canvas of wood.’”

But after making a couple attempts with beans and rice as a medium, he put the project away and moved onto something else. Then the pandemic hit, and Joseph finished the commissions he had underway at the time. When the stop-work order came, he found himself with no projects at all. Then a plumber stopped by his studio to fix some pipes and inspired him in a new direction.

“He was like an angel from overhead,” said Joseph. “He pulled out the rice and beans paintings and they still looked great.”

But this time, there was a new urgency and messaging in the work.

“Obviously, it’s about rice and beans. These are things you can still get in the supermarket — rice and beans,” he said. “If you have enough rice and beans you can live, you can eat. It’s part of a basic need around the world.

“What else became relevant? Toilet paper,” he said. “You never thought twice about it, but you wake up one day and it’s become the most important item in the world and people are fighting and killing each other over it. It went from non-existent in your mind to the most relevant item on a dime.”

As an artistic medium, uncooked rice and beans are rigid and difficult to keep in contact with surfaces like wood. So Joseph developed a process of working in which he first bleached both to remove the food properties and affixed them with a glue-like medium.

“There are red beans, lima beans, black beans. There are 1,000 different kinds of beans. There’s also lots of rice — Carolina rice, basmati rice,” he said. “I use white rice and brown rice too, but I bleach it, so it’s not alive anymore.

“It’s organic and natural. I created 25 works of rice and beans. I gave the rice color. It’s not rice anymore, it’s a surface,” he said. “Since I’m into colors, I have the most brilliant colors I can imagine.”

With this body of work, while his choice of medium may be commonplace, Joseph finds that the times we are living in are anything but. He notes that with COVID-19, this is the first time one disease has affected the whole planet at the same time during our lifetimes.

“With the speed of transit — planes and boats, it can spread quickly,” he said. “You go to sleep one night and it’s spring, and the next day it’s a pandemic and you can’t get toilet paper.”

“I’m making art out of something you can eat,” he added. “These works are about basic needs, and I guess you can say we are all experiencing a shift in consciousness in which those essentials are being redefined and revalued."

“Essentials,” an exhibition of Nathan Slate Joseph’s rice, bean and toilet paper paintings, opens with a reception on Saturday, July 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Keyes Gallery, 45 Main Street at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. For information call 631-808-3588 or visit juliekeyesart.com.

You May Also Like:

STYLEHAMPTON: À-Tout-Àge Fashion Veteran Denise Johnston’s Burgeoning Brand

It’s not a new story: a woman with unique personal style comes to the realization ... 10 Aug 2020 by Steven Stolman

Neo-Political Cowgirls Boost Arts, Advocacy with Andromeda’s Sisters

Florencia Lozano recently found herself questioning what she always took for granted: books and articles ... by Michelle Trauring

The Story He Is – Roger Rosenblatt’s Writing Life

“Writing makes justice desirable, evil intelligible, grief endurable, and love possible.” – Roger Rosenblatt (from ... by Annette Hinkle

Life Drawing With Linda Capello

The Education Department of the Parrish Art Museum announced that teaching artist Linda Capello’s popular ... by Staff Writer

Backyard Theater At Guild Hall

Guild Hall is pleased to inaugurate the John Drew Backyard Theater (JDBT), a space in ... by Staff Writer

Ed Smith’s Reflections

The BCK Fine Arts Gallery @Montauk is pleased to present its third exhibition of the season, and its first show of the works of sculptor Ed Smith. In “Reflections: Recent Works by Ed Smith,” the artist presents a collection of bronze torsos, small bronze figures, small terra cotta figures and torsos along with monographs and drawings, depicting both his process and versatility. Throughout his career, Ed Smith has been known for his portrayal of the “heroic ideal.” His inspiration is drawn from the Classical Period of Greece, the Golden Age; a time period which drew its heroes and code of ... by Staff Writer

Present Tense: Black Lives Matter(ed)

“Africaville,” a powerful debut novel by Jeffrey Colvin, tells the story of the black experience ... by Staff Writer

Let’s Hit The Drive-in!

Sag Harbor Cinema’s Drive-in series continues at Havens Beach with films every Sunday night that ... by Staff Writer

Outdoor Music at Bay Street

Bay Street Theater has opened its outdoor patio and bar to the public five days a week — Thursdays through Mondays — from 1 to 8 p.m. daily, with live music performed outdoors (weather permitting) by local artists. The bar menu includes snacks and drinks, as well as Bay Street Theater face coverings and water bottles. All funds go to support Bay Street Theater, its artists, and staff. The theater itself remains closed due to COVID-19 government regulations, so all purchases are greatly appreciated. Drink specials on Bay Street Theater’s Patio Bar menu include the Mojo Mojito (rum, lime, and ... by Staff Writer

Mountainfilm In The Great Outdoors At SAC

Mountainfilm on Tour Southampton returns to the Southampton Arts Center again this year, with films ... by Staff Writer

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported