Food plays a critical role in every culture and is imbued with rich symbolic meaning. Through many cultures, whether a meal is meager or lavishly prepared, the symbolic meaning of food often has little to do with the food itself, but rather acts as a unifying element for communication, relationships and community development.
In art, food has an incredible capacity to generate a dialogue directed at issues surrounding the body, politics, economics, consumption, gender, race and contemporary society. The mere representation of food has so many different connotations that utilizing it as a sort of visual alphabet allows the artists in “Figuratively Full” to showcase compositions that are equally as stunning and evocative as they are drenched in metaphors and meaning.
Philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer suggests that food alone cannot qualify as a fine art; it does not have the right history, to make a complex point in shorthand. Consequently, it is based on the reconfiguration of foodstuff that allows the object to be considered as a work of art. In “Figuratively Full” artists elevate food into art by means of physical intervention with foodstuff. By reconfiguring modern day food items into traditional 17th century vanitas, manipulating perishables into dynamic compositions, or generating tensions between food and the body, the works become unified through the act of photography: a slicing out of a moment and freezing it, testifying to “time’s relentless melt.” Through the immortalization of the otherwise decaying foodstuff, the works in “Figuratively Full” call into question ideas of food consumption and what value and symbolism food holds in Contemporary North American society.
By using photography, the ephemeral elements become representational, allowing the body and food to exist eternally frozen in dialogue: What does food mean to our intellectual self? Our community? How does the importance we place on food impact our ideas of self identity within our respective cultures? Food reminds us that human beings are rather odd and the conspicuous consumption of food has always been important as an indicator of status. Within North America, these photos are an abundance of the various artist’s consumptions in documentary form, along with an array of fruitful still-life and grotesque self-portraiture.
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