Artists create their masterpieces by utilizing a variety of mediums and materials — paint, chalk, charcoal, fabric, paper, wood, plaster and metal. One local creative puts her own unique twist on art, and the results are deliciously different. Sandra Marshall creates fun and eclectic sculptures and images using vegetables, fruits and other food items.
During the presidential inauguration, a well-known meme of a freezing and seated Bernie Sanders caught Marshall’s attention and she created “Ernie in Eggplant, Potato and Kale,” also known as “Taste the Bern.” It went viral when horror writer Stephen King and S.E. Hinton, author of “The Outsiders,” both tweeted out her artwork.
Building on that buzz, Marshall has released her second book, “The Razzle Berry Wackadoodle Garden.” At its core, the exciting volume introduces plant-based eating to kids through a fun story and wildly imaginative food visuals.
A lifelong artist and painter, the New York native moved to Arizona to attend ASU decades ago and never looked back. “I was so tired of being cold, and I needed somewhere warm, and now I’m in a good spot,” Marshall says. Her parents wouldn’t allow her to get a degree in art, so instead she studied early childhood education. “I knew that I was going to be an artist, but I figured that education would be a well-rounded degree because if I went into business, who doesn’t like a teacher? Plus, I love working with children.”
The food aspect of her art emerged when Marshall’s daughter declared, at 5 years old, that she was never going to eat meat again. Strong-willed, the child implored her mother and father not to trick her or otherwise try to get her to change her mind. “I thought, ‘I really have to focus and find out about a plant-based lifestyle for her,’” Marshall recalls. “The more I researched it, the more I became fascinated with it; and the more I explored fruits and vegetables, the more my art kicked in.”
Marshall artistic vision was further fueled when her young son noticed a bunch of vegetables on the kitchen counter and declared he wasn’t going to eat any of them because they looked disgusting.
“That night, I turned those vegetables into an adorable owl, took a picture of it and wrote a story about it,” Marshall remembers. “I told my kids the next night at dinner that we were having owl soup and showed them the photo — and they ate every bite of their meal. I knew I was on to something.” Marshall soon began exploring fruits and vegetables in the store as source of art and grew even more fascinated.
The culinary experimenter has been teaching art for years and, at one time, had a studio in Ahwatukee. She released her first food art book, “One Hot Night at the Veggie Bar,” which is geared more toward adults, in 2016. The following year, she shifted gears to devote more time to her own artistic endeavors and, in 2019, began teaching art via Zoom.
She is excited about her latest literary offering. “As you open the book, all the fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and other plant-based ingredients used to create the art are listed. But as you go through the story, part of the fun is guessing what I used for the pictures," she explains. "It starts a conversation. I think adults will enjoy it as much as children.”
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Marshall concludes. “Schools want to carry this book in their curriculum. Parents and grandparents love it. It’s been such an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to take it to the next level.”
Marshall plans to take her food art to schools, couple it with painting classes and deliver an overall message of health and well-being to students throughout the Valley. Visit sandramarshallart.com for additional information.