Meat as Muse: A Jaw-Dropping Look at America, Told Through Beef

“It wasn’t uncommon for my wife to ask, ‘Who are we eating tonight?'” Dominic Episcopo recalls. “[I would reply,] ‘You’re eating New Jersey and I’m eating Abe Lincoln.'”

It’s all in a day’s work for the Philadelphia-based artist, photographer and carnivore, whose newest project, Meat America, explores the American spirit and the symbols, figures, and history that represent it — all expressed through intricately-carved and sculpted cuts of meat. From state-shaped steaks to cellophane-wrapped hamburger meat spelling “LOVE,” the project is both conceptually eye-opening and seriously ambitious.

“The idea actually came from watching Wolfe Blitzer on CNN,” the artist explained to us over email. “He reports in front of a world map made of a weird red gelatin…it looked like meat to me.” Episcopo took the inspiration and ran with it, directing his intention toward the US. “Once I got going, subjects were easy and it was endless.”

Although Episcopo calls himself a meat-lover, he admits that even for him the project was a challenge, both technically complex and at times just difficult to stomach.

“Meat is different to work with,” he says, explaining that he molded most of the meat with his hands, wanting to achieve an overall look that looked natural and not like a “meat pattern,” maintaining that for him it was “important that the shape [felt] like a steak, like you would buy it at the market.”

The project also presented other unseen challenges. “For all my affection for meat, it [was] really gross at times,” Episcopo explains. “When I was making Michael Jackson from a calf’s liver — it’s the perfect color — it was so gross I actually had to throw it all out and start over the next day.”

For Episcopo, meat is both a personal muse and a broader analogy, a natural “trigger [which brings] up all sorts of reactions and issues, from heath to consumption, animal rights to environment,” themes that are all present in his project. Ultimately, he says, “It’s just a great metaphor for America in general.”

Episcopo is currently raising money to publish Meat America as a book through Kickstarter. You can read more about the project and support his endeavor here. Click through our slideshow below to preview a few of his pieces.

Photo credit: Dominic Episcopo