In 1826, a French physician concerned with the undesirable effects of a high-carb diet coined the proverb, “tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” This prolific expression mirrors the ideology of Molly Savage’s latest work—only the philosophy is slightly tweaked to accommodate the consumption zeitgeist of the 21st century.
To put it simply, “you are what you buy.”
Past purchases reveal a lot about a person—a nexus of preferred food options, attire, pastimes, and interests—a culmination of items that expose the very essence of our humanity. It is for this reason Savage came up with her latest gallery exhibit, Goods & Services & Other Things—a series of oil paintings on canvas that depict her most personal purchases via crumbled receipts, providing the observer a glimpse into how she chooses to spend her time and resources.
“I suppose what my paintings say about me as a human is that I’m quite like a lot of people… I like to do things with my friends and family. I have to buy gifts for the people in my life, and I like to treat myself to the things I enjoy sometimes,” Savage said. “As an artist, I think that my paintings show that I’m pretty introspective. I like to think about what is important to me and sometimes even laugh at myself for the things I spend money on.”
The CCAD grad’s series serves as a self-portrait. The beauty of Savage’s work is not only in its hyperrealism, but also in its memorialization of the seemingly mundane. Take a crumbled Taco Bell receipt for $3.96 for instance, or a tattered receipt from J. Crew for $38.43—while we may not give these frayed pieces of paper a second thought, Savage has created something beautiful, an autobiographical testament of her own identity, be it proof of owning a heart embossed sweater—or a handful of burritos.
“One of the many reasons I like my receipt paintings is because the painting is still there long after the purchase is gone,” Savage said. “My Taco Bell receipt was painted my senior year of college when a sizable part of my diet was their fresco bean burritos. I lived on South Third Street off of Kossuth where there was a Taco Bell. That painting reminds me of that time in my life.”
But not all of the receipts are as ordinary—some written in Japanese, others from National Parks, each telling a unique story of Savage’s past experiences. Almost poetically, the very first painting in Savage’s unique series displays the purchase of a blank canvas.
“In 2011, Utrecht was having a sale on painting panels, so I bought one with no real plan for what to paint on it. The cashier handed me my receipt and that is what began my preoccupation with receipts.”
If art is reflective of life, then Goods & Services & Other Things certainly reveals the nuances of Savage’s day-to-day. While many decide to dispose of their financial paper trail, Savage has relished in hers, probing at the relationship between the ordinary and the remarkable.
A special opening for Goods & Services & Other Things will take place at The German Village Meeting Haus Sunday, June 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibition will run through July 2.