BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - The pepper eyes of the "Mona Tofu" gaze out from beneath flowing noodle hair, and the tomato skin of "Cabbage Monroe" glows in Ju Duoqi's contemporary art exhibition in Beijing.
Many of the world's most famous paintings are on display in Ju's "Vegetable Museum" -- recreated in photographs of pinned-together onions, potatoes and eggplants.
"In terms of sculpture, I don't like using fibreglass. It's too difficult, and wood just doesn't look right," said Ju, sitting in front of her "Liberty Leading the Vegetables," a parody of "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix.
Ju, a former website and computer game designer from Sichuan province, has been creating about two vegetable sculptures a month since 2006 to show that art is a part of daily life.
The 35-year-old artist boils, dries or pickles vegetables to perfect their appearance before assembling them, adding the fastest-rotting ingredients last. After photographing her work, she turns it into a meal.
Her exhibition in Beijing's bohemian 798 art district drew giggles at its opening this week as visitors recognized usually revered works of art in her photos.
"If I could afford it, I would definitely buy one... She is very innovative," said Li Xiang, a gallery visitor. "Some art can be quite abstract, which if you're not an art expert is difficult to understand."
The market for Chinese contemporary art was booming until the global financial crisis tightened buyers' purse strings. Last month a Sotheby's Asian art auction in Hong Kong pulled in just half its expected sales value, with many contemporary Chinese paintings unsold.
But Ju's work was selling healthily at $1,500 to $2,000 per piece.
A foreign visitor bought Ju's "Cabbage Monroe," a vegetable version of Andy Warhol's 1967 pop-art "Marilyn Monroe," within hours of the exhibition's launch. Another piece sold the next day.
The Paris-Beijing Gallery hosting Ju's work usually exhibits work on the darker side of Chinese photography, but Ju's unashamedly bold vegetables convinced founder Romain Degoul to grant her a two-month-long show.
"When I saw her works I found them very funny, very attractive, and very different to what I saw and what I used to see before from Chinese contemporary art," he said.
Writing by Beijing newsroom, editing by Miral Fahmy