I came up with the idea for my painting series while I was painting with my friend Domingo Zapata, who has a long-standing series on matadors and bullfighting that speaks to his Spanish culture. I thought: What could I paint that was significant to American culture and me? The first image that popped into my mind was a hamburger.
It made me laugh, but at the same time I realized how sad and true it is that we as Americans, in our fast-paced lives, are so accustomed to the instant gratification that comes with fast food. Images of salty, unhealthy foods seem to be everywhere. It made me think about the prevalence of violence, too, and the perpetuation of violent imagery through entertainment, media and music.
I decided to paint images of fast food juxtaposed with guns as a meditation on the influence of imagery on our lives. I tried to have a sense of humor with it because even in the most tragic moments in our lives, there is room for some humor as a release.
I’ve loved painting from a very young age. The first theme I ever painted was dinosaurs. Perhaps my decision now to paint fast food and guns means I’ve had a premonition that we are heading to our own extinction.
There is danger in a hamburger, and there’s danger in a pistol. Even though we know they’re harmful, they’re ever-present. And, somehow, they’re enticing.
We lead busy lives, and I know from experience that when you’re feeling down or stressed, you often want unhealthy things. We’re victims of our own cravings and our own suggestibility. We know that what we eat affects our physical body and and our emotional state of mind. But we’re sometimes less aware that the images we consume can have similar effects.
So how do we find substance?
It’s important to be conscious. We’ll always have moments of blindness—we’re human, and that’s to be expected. But when we’re not doing our best, we have to acknowledge it and try and improve on it. It begins with an awareness of how your environment and surroundings are affecting you. And then you have to ask yourself what you can do to ensure your well-being amidst all this conflicted imagery.
Adrien Brody is an Academy Award-winning actor. He is debuting his painting series “Hotdogs, Hamburgers and Handguns” at Art Basel on Dec. 2.