Exhibition: Feast Your Eyes
In Ancient Egypt food was painted on the walls of king's tombs so they could feast upon banquets for eternity in the afterlife. During the 17th century, Dutch artists' still life paintings displayed tables of deftly rendered portraits of moodily lit grapes, half peeled lemons, and glinting silverware. Amid the bounty was the hint of decay; the sweet appearance of the lemon hiding its bitter taste, the small touch of rot on an apple. While these works used food to convey the brevity of life, food's message has morphed over the centuries to sell, educate, and challenge expectations in a variety of mediums. Before photography, chromolithographs, multi-colored prints, of fanciful creations were featured in The Royal Cookery Book in 1867 to illustrate elaborate recipes. By the beginning of the 20th century food is put on display in tightly cropped photographs for magazines, drenched with hair spray to make it shine like the new technology and microwaves used to cook packaged meals. Today, natural lighting and elements of the process, like wooden spoons and cracked eggshells, create a mood that extends beyond the taste of the food itself. Instagram accounts by food photographers have nearly a million followers and pictures of cut and arranged oranges and grapefruits have thousands of "likes".
This fall's exhibit at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College tracks the history of artfully photographing a meal from its long history of feast and famine imagery to the more recent foodie fad. Connecting contemporary interest in cuisine with the rich tradition of still life in art, this exhibition of prints, drawings, photographs, and paintings from the Davis collections serves up an opportunity to consider how representations of food reflect cultural ideas about consumption in different eras.