“Wait.” Phyllis emerged from the studio with roses in one hand, hot dogs in the other. “What if we held these like a bouquet?”
If you gave us a hot dog, we’d probably eat it. But if you give LAZY MOM a hot dog, the possibilities are endless. Over the course of our visit in their Brooklyn studio, we watched the artistic duo behind the popular zine carefully construct a pyramid out of hot dogs and wire, document its collapse on a well-lit teal backdrop, and arrange the leftovers in a rose-and-pork bouquet.
And that’s what LAZY MOM does: test the limits when it comes to food photography, an art form that’s otherwise been dominated by advertisers and marketers alike. From hair curlers wrapped in bacon to veggie jello birthday cakes, LAZY MOM’s unorthodox still life photos are so bizzare and out of the ordinary, yet so mesmerizing that we can’t look away – and with over 55,000 followers on Instagram, it’s safe to say that the internet agrees, too. The brainchild of window dresser Phyllis Ma and prop stylist Josie Keefe, LAZY MOM tells its story from the perspective of a character who’s too lazy to make her kids food – and wants to play with it instead.
We met the two artists in their Brooklyn studio and talked about the story behind the zine, their advice for younger artists looking to break into the scene, and why food is arguably the best art material to work with.
A bonus note – if you’re in NYC, LAZY MOM showing at the NY Art Book Fair, which kicks off today at the MoMA Ps1 and is open to the public (for free!) starting tomorrow.
Meet Phyllis Ma & Josie Keefe of LAZY MOM:
How did you meet?
Phyllis Ma: Well, we went to school together – but we didn’t actually meet.
Josie Keefe: We were in the same year at Columbia but didn’t meet until afterwards in an online art collective called Family Family Tree. So we actually met on the internet – through we’d been in the same room before, I’m sure.
What did the first project look like?
Phyllis: It was a zine called Lazy Wow.
Josie: <points to image below> That’s actually the first image we ever took together. We took it and thought, “We could do 300 more of these.” So that’s what we did.
Where did you come up with the name LAZY MOM?
Phyllis: That comes from one of the photos in Lazy Wow, actually. We made up an imaginary character of a mom who’s too lazy to make her kids lunch. Instead, she wants to make other things with the food. For instance, instead of a normal sandwich, she wants to carefully re-arrange all the ingredients of the sandwich in a neat pile.
Josie: Also it’s about female guilt – doing kind of the “wrong thing” and focusing on something creative instead of what you’re supposed to do, or what society expects of you. Like feeding your kids.
What attracted you to food photography?
Josie: It’s one thing that actually represents so much. You need it every day to survive, but you also express a lot of your values, culture and background in what you eat – that’s what you care about. It’s a very simple thing that can be really complicated.
Phyllis: It’s also a really fun art material.
Josie: And really cheap. Which is always good.
How do you complement each other?
Josie: Phyllis is always very organized and prepared. [laughs] She keeps track of the lists which is really helpful.
Phyllis: Josie has weird internet obsessions…and she finds the strangest things on the internet. Like Aspic jello, which is savory jello…you know – chicken, tomatoes. It was big in the ’60s for a second.
Do you have a creative community in Brooklyn?
Josie: Printed Matter has been a really big supporter from the beginning – they started selling our first zine really early on and were really encouraging with our future ones. That just felt, as an artist in New York, like a really big deal.
What are you showing this year?
Josie: Our newest zine, Thirsty, is all about cocktails. We had acquired 30 weird cocktail glasses from some different projects, so we had a lot of different glass ones. We both just kind of accumulate that kind of stuff. It’s all different cocktails – the one of the cover features Phyllis’ pet fish, Olive, swimming in a cocktail glass.
Phyllis: It’s also the first time we really stuck with a theme for a zine. It was definitely an interesting, very different way to work. And also we’ve never really styled liquids before…which is more difficult, because it’s harder to keep it in one place. We were researching different things like water density, different science project-type things.
What should a newcomer expect at the Art Book Fair?
Josie: It’s crazy! It’s everyone in New York in a room, all at the same time. It’s really fun, and kind of the best of New York. You have all these creative people, these super ideas just jammed into the same place. There’s lots of people that come from all over the world, kind of like overwhelming with new ideas and new inspiration. You’re seeing all these things that you’ve never seen before.
What advice do you have for young artists who are trying to do what you’re doing?
Josie: Just do it. A lot of people ask how we started, but the thing is that we started ourselves. We published our first zine – I guess self-publishing is what I would say. It’s the best thing that you can do for yourself, because it gets yourself out there and people can see what you’re doing, but it also shows that you have enough images to make it. Don’t wait for someone else to put out your zine. Make all the images and put it out yourself. And then eventually someone else will want to do it for you.
Phyllis: Make sure that you’re actually having fun now. Because even if it makes you successful in the future, and you’re not that passionate about it, it’s going to make you miserable in the long run.
Josie: We try to have a lot of fun with everything that we do, even when we’re on a deadline. The best images are the ones where we were playing around the most. It comes through.