Art and Food Roundup No. 2

Robin Dluzen

When we put out a call online for ‘art and food,’ we received an incredible response from our Facebook friends, nominating local artists who make work about food, or make work with food, or both!

Praline Surprise, Alison Ruttan

Round Two: Food as Imagery

In my last article about art and food, I highlighted three artists who use food literally has their media to make work, and in their cases, to make work with powerful content. This trend continues into our discussion of ‘Food as Imagery’ wherein food is used visually, but not literally, in the work. The presence of food in art seems to always conjure powerful, particular content, whether it is food as the everyday and mundane practice, food as the universal fuel of life, or food as the epitome of consumption and excess.

Here are three local artists using food as imagery in their works:

Detail from A Day of Eating, Shawnee Barton

Alison Ruttan– is an interdisciplinary artist whose interest in human and animal behavior has taken many forms. In one of Ruttan’s series entitled ‘Food,’ she combines two kinds of images that have a “physiological response”: porn and food. The images are pitted against one another on the picture plane, creating a tense equilibrium; the porn –a natural distraction—is interrupted by images of corresponding foods, evident in the titles, such as Cherry Pie and Caramel Custard. Here, composition and humor activate the “relationship we have to appetite and desire,” as viewers try to decipher the sex that the food so frustratingly disrupts, then (maybe) the food that the sex has so thoroughly trumped.

Ruttan is Adjunct Associate Professor of Contemporary Practices, and Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learn more about Ruttan in her interview with Bad at Sports.

Surprise, Lauren Brescia

Shawnee Barton– uses food often as a nostalgic trigger, employed in many different forms: in her ICE CREAM ON A LIGHT BOX, series, the artist creates color photographs of the title’s subject and for Matt Bumb Eats, the artist documents the bothersome eating habits of a roommate in flipbook format. In A Day of Eating, Barton uses the lo-fi, scrapbook-y mediums of Polaroids, handwritten notes and detritus from various locations in her documentation of “a one-day walking pilgrimage to eat all of my favorite foods and in my favorite eateries in my favorite mid-western city.” Like Ruttan, Barton uses food in conjunction with humor, however Barton’s works often have an absurd sweetness that engages the viewer on an intimate level.

Barton received her MFA in Printmedia from SAIC in 2006.

Lauren Brescia– uses sculptural material to simulate food in her three dimensional works. Often taking the form of dessert, specifically cake, Brescia’s works combine notions of excess and decadence with “decay” and repulsiveness in work, such as her “Parlour” series. In Surprise, the artist builds a larger-than-life tiered cake of pink foam, plaster, polyurethane spray foam, modeling paste and found objects in a saccharine-sweet pink palette, elaborately adorned –evidence of the artist’s past experiences as a cake-decorator. Inside this cake, a tiny environment can be seen through a hole on one side, a result of the attention to domesticity in her practice.

Brescia received her BFA in Sculpture from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2009