We’ve all seen still lifes of glass-bowled fruit and Andy Warhol’s soup cans, or sang about a land of tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
So why does it seem like all of sudden we’re being bombarded by food a nd its presentation? Over the last few years food has taken over social media websites, TV shows and even art exhibits. The question is: Why?
Queen Street’s Gallery 78 is trying to answer that question with the recently launched a group exhibition titled Food – a dish best served painted.
“I just love food. I mean everyone loves food which is part of the reason why we wanted to run this show,” said gallery manager Germaine Pataki-Thériault. “Another reason is because it’s fun and can be upbeat during these winter-blues months.”
It’s true. The second you shut the heavy door of the gallery you forget the wet and grey weather and embrace a world of fresh watermelons, loaves of bread and larger than life cupcakes. On top of that, food art has the ability to appeal to the senses while leaving room for the mind to wander.
Assistant manager Kim Bent stares at a big painting of mason jars stuffed with colourful jams. They’re all different sizes and stand in a row on a sunny windowsill.
“When I look at this one, I can’t help but think about my own mother. She’s always making her own jams,” said Bent.
“Then my imagination takes off, and I’m left thinking about how much I enjoy jams, and I start thing about the stickiness and sweetness of them.”
Across from the glowing jelly sits a painting of a lone bowl of mashed potatoes. It could be supper for a student on the run, Thanksgiving leftovers or warm comfort food. If you’re feeling especially sensitive, a bowl of taters could make you feel calm, lonely, or sad.
“Food art isn’t always so complicated. I’ve heard people say that they just don’t get certain paintings or certain pieces of art. With food you might not get exactly what the artist is saying, but you can use your imagination and interpret the painting however you’d like,” said Bent.
“An apple is always going to be an apple regardless of the meanings we might put behind its image.”
Pictures of food have become a way of sharing creativity, inspiration and variety – feeding the palate and the creative soul at the same time.
Gallery 78 is the new home to some of artist Kate MacDonald’s “Last Meal” paintings along with a social media inspiration piece titled “Instagram #321@Danhamfram.” It’s a painting of the familiar Tim Horton’s brown bagged bagel.
Before the picture made it to canvas, it was just a cell-phone shot which had popped up on MacDonald’s Instagram feed.
“Social media has provided us with new ways of connecting, but being limited to communicating online may mean that we rely on certain socially acceptable commonalities like pictures of cute babies, adorable animals, and delicious-looking food to ensure connection with our peers,” said MacDonald.
“Pictures of food, the only acceptable porn on social media sites, not only share details about our culture, but location and comparative social status.”
Steven Rhude is another artist participating in Gallery 78’s show. He believes that food represents a form of social democracy. Many painters are using food as a subtle way to bring about cross-cultural ideas and politics which might not surface in the mainstream media.
“The arts have come a long way since the apple still lifes of Cezanne,” said Rhude.
Rhude’s selected works at the current food show are a part of his “Breadline” paintings. Images of bread loaves or sprinkled doughnuts sit on the yellow line in the middle of a road. It symbolizes the simple things which we all want or need, but also the outside influence of everyday like standing in a line at the grocery store.
Bread is just the context where as lines are a construction and a part of life. Rich or poor we all stand in them. According to Rhude we are the line.
“People certainly connect with food. What the two things do have in common is that real food and our experience with it has lead us to a type of historic representation symbolizing our transience,”s said Rhude. “We just spend so much time in the kitchen it stands to reason it has mushroomed, pardon the pun, into a post-modern subject for contemporary expression.”
“Hey, even as Maritimers, when we have a party where do we end up? In the kitchen.”
Gallery 78’s free show “Food- a dish best served painted” will run until March 10.
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