Some people stick fruit into Jell-O. Others inject it with Asian-spiced pork consommé, mold it into the shape of a pig's head, mount it on a plaque like a hunting trophy, and enter it in a Jell-O Mold Competition
-- like the one held at the Gowanus Studio Space in Brooklyn on Sunday.
For the second year in a row, GSS
has done to Jell-O what the Tea Party has done to American politics -- combined retro Americana with a surreal, Dali-esque edge.
"Somebody at GSS found an old Jell-O cookbook," says Nadia Siddiqui, co-director of the contest. "And we thought Jell-O is cheap, which everybody needs right now; and it's wobbly, like the economy." And a competition was born. Their slogan? "Stay Calm, Wobble On."
To find out how gelatin, cocktail mix and the Virgin Mary won someone $400, read on.
The first law of gel club is get there early. The entries showed up in Styrofoam picnic coolers filled with ice, and for the first hour they were pristine. By the second hour they began wilting, and by the third, they were just shiny goo -- such was the fate that befell Dave Gould and Ben Leight, the meat masters who brought the mounted Jell-O pig's head (and a Jell-O bull's head, flavored with roast beef and horseradish sauce), under the title "Trophy Room."
Most of the contenders were designers, not chefs, and their jiggly works of art ranged from fashion statements (a dress made of pink Jell-O scales) to political ones (an oil spill complete with dying fish).
And as we discovered, the medium can be flavored with virtually anything. The Jello-O medicine caplets were sweet and fruity, and the Jell-O superballs, which you could buy from a vending machine for a quarter, had real glitter in them and tasted like chewy mango. To our relief, the Jell-O sushi didn't taste like sea urchin, although it was reminiscent of peanut butter and something awful from an herbalist's shop.
After the tasting, the judging. The panel included several top designers and a food strategist, and they judged the entries on creativity, aesthetics, structural ingenuity, culinary appeal, and best use and showcase of Jell-O. Gould and Leight picked up a "Meat Lovers Honorable Mention" (despite ending up as an amber puddle of jelly), but the first prize went to Shelly Sabel and her "Aspic Ascension Tastes Like Heaven," a series of four small sculptures molded out of Bloody Mary gelatin and sculpted like -- what else? -- the Virgin Mary. (Because when you're competing in a Brooklyn indie art show, playful blasphemy is always your go-to.)
The official theme of the show was "Resilience," but perhaps the real message here is that Jell-O is the ultimate democratic art medium. Check out the website for the tips and tricks
to making your own glow-in-the-dark, tasty and edible Jell-O monsters, artworks, and shockpieces ... and wobble on.