Food for Thought
I vividly recall as a student of art attending a drawing class each day to find the same still life as the class before. What began as a cheerful mixture of brightly colored fresh fruit on a pedestal, slowly began to wilt and decay, and eventually I was picking up shades of green and blue to depict the once orange fruit. The life cycle metaphor and ephemerality of the objects were not lost on me, and like many artists I have always had an appreciation for food as subject matter.
Artists have been depicting food for thousands of years. Possessing both spiritual and practical connotations, there isn’t a culture that hasn’t used food in visual representations. Because food is interwoven into basic human existence as life sustenance, it has simultaneously become symbolism for things such as religion, wealth, social status, politics, gender, and virtue. The history of food depiction in art is long and complex. However, in the late 1600s the highly influential still-life movement of the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain focused specifically on the beauty of objects through realism. Food was a favorite subject of the painters and their influence can be seen in several of the works shown in this exhibition. Later on, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the impressionists and modernists showed food as central to social experiences. In the 1950s, the emergence of consumerism triggered the the pop-art movement, where artists such as Lichtenstein and Warhol began using their work to critique mass production and consumerism. Today we view and depict food in contextually similar ways to our artistic predecessors, though one might argue Instagram has taken the place of the painter’s easel.
Food for Thought features artworks from the past century. The earliest works included in the exhibition, such as Snelgrove’s Milling Wheat, reflect the era by conveying moments from real life. It is common to find work from that era depicting mill workers and farmers both working and eating. Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters was created during this era. More contemporary works, such as Warhol’s Untitled black on black print of a Campbell’s soup can with a cow, force the viewer to stop and stare, as they would, perhaps, in a super market aisle while contemplating their choices. Whatever the intention of each artist, I hope you’ll find much to think about at you take in each work of art. Within the exhibition is additional information provided by the Town Square Farmers Market. In lieu of an opening reception, UND Art Collections will be sponsoring the Sept. 26 market; the final market of the season. Accessibility to fresh, affordable food is a social issue that is not new. This exhibition includes evidence of that through display of depression-era rationing books and other ephemera. Thank you to Town Square Farmers Market for the meaningful collaboration.
Sarah Heitkamp, Curator
Ardmore Press Publication
Paul Edward Beem
Barton Lidice Benes
Hildegarde Fried Dreps
Jacqueline Anne Kern (J. A. Badman)
1937 lithograph print
Joy Flynn Knutson