It looks good enough to eat!

by Laura Wilson
Marketing and Communications Intern from Durham College’s Public Relations program

In the latest Art Talk presentation, SG Curator Olexander Wlasenko explored the role food has played in visual art. In the talk, titled Looks Good Enough to Eat, Olex examined food in art throughout decades and how it reflects upon life during the period in which these artworks were created.

The relationship between food and art can be traced back as far as the cave paintings by our ancestors, where the idea that the act of creating these images would bring about their abundance, a term referred to as “sympathetic magic”. Throughout the artworks examined, we see the relationship with food change from a necessity to excess.

Food was used by many artists to showcase wealth and the fleeting nature of time through richly painted still-life portraits. In the 16th century, artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo used food as a tool to create whimsical puzzle-like portraits. Representing food, such as fruit and vegetables, as a medium rather than the subject changes the viewer’s opinion of what they’re viewing from one to another.

While not necessarily picturesque, Rembrandt van Rijn’s Slaughter of an Ox from the 17th century shows the preparation of food during that time at face value. On the other hand, Olex also references Roman mosaics from the first century BCE that illustrate food strewn across the floor after a banquet.

Similarly representing food in abundance, I lost my appetite with the infamous ‘meat dress’ of more recent times. One was created by Canadian artist Jana Sterbak, and another worn by singer Lady Gaga. Through the use of food as clothing, we see the way food can be viewed as a prop that we take for granted, yet also worn to represent larger societal issues.

“The need for sustenance is what drives us as humans and artists,” says Olex. Inspiration can come from anywhere, from what we see in a bakery window to home life and daily rituals. Despite what century the artworks where created in, the need for nourishment is apparent in many forms, creating a bridge between art and daily life.

Join us for our next Art Talks exploring various topics in art:

Thursday, February 15th 7-8pm at SG: You Can Call Me Al

Monday, March 5th 1-2pm at SG: Brutes, Folks & Outsiders

Thursday, March 8th 7-8pm at Whitby Public Library: Not-so-Starving Artists (encore)

Thursday, March 15th 7-8pm at SG: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Arts Club Band

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