Crab Soup and the Turning Point

It is impossible to see a Campbell’s soup can and not think of Andy Warhol’s piece Campbell’s Soup Cans. Throughout his career, Warhol made it clear that he was a fan of art that could be mass produced. He once attempted to make 4000 prints in a single day, but it ended up taking him much longer to make far less than 4000.

I find it ironic that the planet is now paying the price for all of our mass production, albeit not of art, but mostly of copious amounts of containers. I did an art show years ago entitled Apocalypse Meow where each piece illustrated how terrible humans are treating the earth and where it could lead. One of the pieces was entitled Mermaid Interrupted. It pictures a mermaid on the seafloor picking up trash with her trident and there is a small crab in the bottom corner that has a soup can instead of a shell.

Mermaid Interrupted by Mark Wilhelm

Over the years, this little crab with his soup can shell, who I quickly dubbed Crab Soup, has become more and more relevant in my mind. Not only does he represent the path of natural destruction that we are currently on, but he also represents one of the most pivotal moments in my art career.

When working under a deadline, things are a blur sometimes. But over the course of the two to three months that it took to complete all the works for Apocalypse Meow, I couldn’t get Crab Soup out of my mind. After the show was over I had more time to think about it and I realized that small side character was my single favorite part of that show. I also realized that Crab Soup summed up everything I was trying to convey in one single sketch. Crab Soup helped me to turn a corner in both my process and the way I see and create art. It was a eureka moment for sure.

Crab Soup by Mark Wilhelm

After this realization, I painted Crab Soup again, but this time he took center stage. I really enjoyed painting a piece and letting it stand out as the star or the single focal point. I continued to make more amalgamation piece with plain backgrounds that were designed to trigger a thought process, which is at the core of my goal as an artist.

Human Noodle Soup by Mark Wilhelm

Bigot Bigwheel by Mark Wilhelm

I have really enjoyed looking back at these pieces over the years. They remain strangely relevant and, at times, feel like unheeded warnings from the past. In future posts I will go into what my process and inspiration was for some of these pieces.

-Mark Wilhelm

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