- October 3, 2009 - September 4, 2010
Gummi Bears, Cheetos, and JELL-O, but also corn, beets, and peaches, in You Art What You Eat, had visitors’ mouths watering as five artists whose primary art material is food took over the Kidspace gallery at MASS MoCA. The exhibition featured Chandra Bocci, Luisa Caldwell, Saxton Freymann, Liz Hickok, and Joan Steiner, all artists who capitalized on specific properties of food and its sensory appeal, and included sculptures, dioramas, photographs, videos, paintings, and site-specific installations.
Chandra Bocci (Portland, OR) created a 15-foot-wide installation of the Big Bang, an explosion of candy Gummi Bears, worms, and fish that is lit from the center. The piece expressed the sticky nature of the Big Bang theory and, at the same time, commented on consumerism. She also created a Cheetos and Fruit Loops installation in the windows of the gallery. Bocci builds large-scale installations that explore notions of fantasy, spectacle, and consumer culture.
For his children’s book series, Saxton Freymann (New York, NY) carved fruits and vegetables to create people and animals. He transformed garden-variety produce into emotive faces and amusing animals enhanced with peppercorn eyes, beet-juice mouths, or corn-kernel teeth. “The colors and forms are so wonderful that they give you everything you need. The characters come out of the vegetable or fruit. I’m just nudging it to something it resembles,” explains Freymann, a graduate of Williams College, who is the creator of How Are You Peeling?; Foods with Moods and Dog Food (both named New York Times Best Illustrated Book); Food for Thought; and Food Play.
Liz Hickok (San Francisco, CA) is renowned for her views of buildings, particularly San Francisco landmarks, created out of JELL-O. Hickok stated, “The gelatinous material evokes uncanny parallels with the geological uncertainties of San Francisco’s landscape. While the translucent beauty of the compositions first seduces the viewer, their fragility quickly becomes a metaphor for the transitory nature of human artifacts.” The exhibition included five photographs of varying sizes, an actual JELL-O mold, and an amusing video of Jarvis Rockwell’s Godzilla destroying JELL-O San Francisco.
Living and working in Brooklyn, NY, Luisa Caldwell found something productive to do with those maddening little labels found on fruits and vegetables. She used them to form flowers petals and as a base for other collage paintings. The exhibition showed her progression with the labels, from using them to document her eating habits over a month to the formation of ever-more elaborate flower paintings. The exhibit included a sample of four years of fruit label explorations, as well as two paintings. Caldwell also displayed an installation made of candy wrappers. Both choices of materials — labels and candy wrappers — encouraged visitors to consider the marketing and classification of food.
Joan Steiner (Claverack, NY) used a variety of found objects to make intricate dioramas for her renowned Look-Alikes children’s book series. Publishers Weekly says, “In this world, nothing is quite what it seems, slices of bread pave a sidewalk; infant pacifiers double as gaslights; pretzels affixed to round crackers become chairs at an old-fashioned soda fountain.” The exhibition featured four dioramas of cityscapes where a large percentage of the pieces were comprised of food. A photograph used in her books and a video that showed how she created her dioramas were also on view. A self-taught artist, Steiner holds a degree in philosophy from Barnard College and creates her work in her home studio.
The exhibition included an interactive area entitled “Food for Thought,” where visitors could learn more about food consumption, with a listening station to hear over 150 food songs, and with a reading area with food-related children’s books. Kidspace also offered opportunities for the public to create their own sculptures using food.
Kidspace offers an extensive program for school groups from the North Adams Public Schools and North Berkshire School Union. For this exhibition, funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council Creative Schools grants, students worked with Luisa Caldwell, Liz Hickok, Chandra Bocci, and Saxton Freymann in school residency programs. An interdisciplinary curriculum guide was presented to the participating teachers. North Adams Regional Hospital’s REACH program also worked with North Adams’ second graders on nutrition to make connections to You Art What You Eat.