At the beginning of each year, The Gallery at Tacoma Community College holds a thematic exhibition, an art show in which a wide array of artists submit work that is somehow related to a given theme. This year, the theme is “food.” The result is what you might expect – a motley collection of work that has everything from still life paintings of fruits and vegetables to symbolic assemblage sculptures that visit the horrors of animal cruelty and factory farming.
These big, free-for-all shows are generally hit and miss. Some of the work is recycled from previous shows. Regular visitors to The Gallery may recognize some of this repetition of previously seen material.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of treasures to see in this feast of a show called “Food in Art.”
Jeffree Stewart’s modest oil painting, “Palouse aka Breadbasket Grasslands,” for example, is a wonderful construction of undulating bands of lush yellow. Working with his grainy striations of color, Stewart gives an impression of fields of wheat in a way that hearkens back to some of the painters of the Northwest School like Guy Anderson, Morris Graves and Mark Tobey.
At the other end of the spectrum, going from fields of wheat to sliced bread we find paintings like Barbara Petterson’s series of sandwiches, done big and up close. Her peanut butter and jelly sandwich paintings approach the photo realist realm. Similarly, TCC art teacher Marit Berg submitted a wonderful watercolor of a club sandwich. The tall, multi-layered construction is sliced in two as if to have a dialogue with itself before it is eaten. Also popular are Diane Fairbanks’s paintings of pastries and pancakes depicted as large objects plopped down into Pacific Northwest landscapes. Her “Budd Bay Bear Claw,” “Deception Pass Doughnut” and “Goldendale Griddlecakes” are funny, yet evocative of the drool response.
Lynette Charters’s paintings on wood, in which the wood grain is left unpainted to become the skin of female figures, are as attractive as they are inventive. Charters visually quotes masters of the female nude like Paul Gauguin, Henri Lebasque and Julio Romero De Torres – here the nudes are associated with baskets and platters of fruits – in either a critique or homage to those painters.
Jeanette Otis’s assemblage sculpture called “50 Billion Hamburgers” features toy cattle whose heads have been removed. They are turned onto their backs and chained to a cylinder to form a kind of unhappy merry-go-round that should seem macabre, but instead comes across as light-hearted like the toys you can get with a MacDonald’s Happy Meal. Otis nevertheless brings home the point that a hamburger chain’s boast of its sales figures includes the pain and death of countless individual creatures.
Diane Topolski’s charcoal drawing “Pizza Delivery” is masterfully rendered. The large drawing is of a woman in a bathrobe sitting in a darkened room with a cell phone, the object used to summon the titular delivery of a pizza pie. The glow of the cell phone is picked up in the gleam of the glasses that the woman is wearing. Here, the food theme of the show becomes more weighty and mysterious.
The show includes enough images of produce to fill many a bushel basket. Beets are a popular sub-theme of the exhibit. Patsy Surh O’Connell, Angela Gilmore and Kyle Dillehay (in a series of photos) all depict the wonderful red root vegetable. Christine Parent did several acrylic paintings that capture the marvelous marbling to be discovered when cutting into a head of red cabbage. Karin Williams has a beautifully austere portrait of onions as well.
Barbara Ritter did a sequence of 12 charcoal drawings of a bowl of avocadoes. Each of the 12 drawings is done in its own style – an exploration of a musical variation on a theme.
With “Food in Art,” The Gallery at TCC lays out a feast for the eye. There is yet plenty of time to get to the campus and view the show, since it runs through March 15. Between now and then, there are a number of events, talks and demonstrations associated with the show:
On Feb. 21, Kyle Dillehay will demonstrate chocolate casting. On Feb. 27, TCC art chair Marit Berg will give a gallery talk. On Feb. 28, Ben Meeker will give a food performance. On March 9, TCC humanities professor Michael Huffman will deliver a gallery talk called “Pop Food.”
For more information, visit www.tacomacc.edu/campuslife/thegallery.