Mike Buzzelli

Column Mike Buzzelli

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and published author. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant, Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine, and an active board member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the Carnegie Arts Initiative and the Carnegie Screenwriters. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

Cultured butter

January 15, 2017

Earlier this month in Harrisburg, a unique tribute to Pennsylvania dairy farmers was unveiled. “The Culture of Stewardship” is art crafted in butter. Yes, I said butter. A half ton of butter, to be precise. The sculpture depicts farms, rolling hillsides, forests and hills and premiered at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show.

I have heard of artists who work in oils, but not butter. I didn’t realize that butter could be art. I only work with butter in the medium of toast, and by “medium” I’m strictly referring to the setting on the toaster.

I couldn’t help but think “The Culture of Stewardship” would have looked perfect next to Roy Neary’s “Devil’s Tower,” constructed completely out of mashed potatoes (in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”). Don’t you think they would have looked delicious together?

Side note: There are several mashed potato sculpting contests around the country, including one at the Long Island Potato Festival. It seems to me mashed potatoes would be easier to make into things, unless they’re lumpy. You can’t carve out a smooth bust of Venus with lumpy mashed potatoes.

But I digress, like I do. The husband and wife team of Jim Victor and Marie Pelton built the panoramic butter tableau. Victor and Pelton are artists who work in butter, chocolate, cheese and mixed-food media. Their work is quite astonishing. They’ve made sculptures of children at play, motorcycles and, of course, cows. They even did Michelangelo’s David, but gave him a surfboard and dressed him in board shorts. Since it was beach-themed, they should have used cocoa butter.

Sculpting art from butter sounds like laborious and messy work, especially with a thousand pounds of the yellow goop. Victor and Pelton work in frigid temperatures to maintain the consistency of their medium.

I wonder if they’d get in trouble for using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! or other margarines? By the way, the exclamation point is actually part of the butter substitute’s name. It’s a very dramatic margarine.

Not to go off on another tangent, but I can’t think of any other item at the grocery store that is both a product and a sentence. Please write in, if you can think of one.

But I digress, again. I grew up loving art, but I don’t believe in wasting food. You can see my dilemma. While I marvel at the sand sculptures at the Three Rivers Regatta, I turn my nose up at food art; literally and figuratively, as it probably stinks after a while. You could never have a permanent collection.

I’m also upset that Victor and Pelton depicted only Pennsylvania’s farmland. Pennsylvania has several iconic images in art and architecture. I would have loved to have seen a PPG tower made from Country Crock or a Liberty Bell made from Blue Bonnet. I realize it would have been difficult, but they should have represented both rural and urban spots in Pennsylvania. They could have found a Smart Balance.

This joke has been spread thin.

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