An Ellensburg artist whose wood-burned and hand-knit pieces exploring outdoor recreation are now on exhibit at the Punch Gallery credits a longstanding locavore project with shaping his thinking about nature.
Howard Barlow is preparing to embark on his third "Project Hungry Hungry Howard," during which he and his family eat only what they grow, raise, forage, fish, hunt, or glean. The two-month-long yearly experiment doesn't start until October, but Barlow's learned the importance of advance planning.
"There's so much involved," Barlow says. "You really have to tend your garden. You have to know how to blanch."
Barlow's project was an outgrowth of semi-survival trips he took to Vancouver Island. He didn't know about 100-mile diets and similar "eat local" initiatives when he first took up the self-sufficiency challenge. When he started the project, he says, he didn't have "any sort of political agenda."
"It makes you think so differently about what you're eating and how much you're eating," says Barlow, who has a new appreciation of sauerkraut and cooking pumpkins. "It's actually a pretty attainable thing to do."
Ten of Barlow's friends have signed on to join the project, which Barlow hopes to eventually extend through the end of the year. "I see it as an art project in some ways," says Barlow. "It parallels my thinking about what art is."
Barlow clarifies he never sought an audience for "Project Hungry Hungry Howard," but his experiences helped inform the works now being shown at Punch. According to a press release, Barlow's pieces "create innocently sinister and peculiar scenes of confused wilderness recreation," and probe the "exploitation, trepidation, idealization," practiced by people in the outdoors.
The gallery show runs through July 30. Barlow doesn't envision ever ending his eating project.
"It just seems like, because of the way the world is, people are thinking more and more about their food," he says.