What’s For Dinner? Review
by Audrey Dimola
Published in Ins&Outs Magazine, Vol. II, Issue 03
What’s For Dinner?: A Provocative Look at Humanity’s Food Resources, runs through November 29, 2008 at NYC’s MH Art & Framing Gallery, a frame shop partly transformed into a genuine gallery dedicated to showcasing local artists.
Why stage such a project? The conception began with Astorian artist Barbara E. Leven, who noticed “the disconnection as a culture, between what we put on our plates and how it got there (how it is grown, raised, harvested, processed, slaughtered, etc.).” Leven joined with fellow photographers Nancy Sirkis, Joyce Morrill, and D. Brandon to examine this disconnect in a variety of ways.
Sirkis’ images of Morocco, including market stalls alive with color, capture immaculately arranged “virgin food, free of preservatives, processing and packaging.” The jarring image of a severed camel’s head speaks to the fact that “every part of an individually slaughtered and butchered animal is eaten including the head, feet and intestines.” Brandon’s images of shelves stocked with sugary, salty, brand name treats in London, Barcelona, and Washington Heights “address our society’s addiction to […] highly refined and largely invented foodstuffs.” Morrill photographs “our drive to find something good to eat” which inevitably seems to lead to “foraging for fast, fun foods that satisfy now,” exemplified by the trailers selling cotton candy and other momentarily satisfying fare at the Union Fair in Maine.
Leven has documented fish and livestock markets in our own NYC, bringing us up close and personal with live animals awaiting their demise: caged chickens, piles of crabs, tanks of fish, and even barrels of frogs we may not notice – as well as the “whole animals flayed and bloody […] prominently displayed” in butcher shop windows that we may try to ignore. Leven admits she did the same until she started educating herself on the matter. After finally forcing herself to look, Leven knew she had to take pictures in an effort to reestablish the link between “herself and the creature that will ultimately become part of her own living body.”
MH Art & Framing Gallery’s Director of Production, Nick Rosal, remarked that one patron entered, took a startled look at the images, and abruptly exited. He then posed a question not unlike this one: if this is what you see when you walk down the street, or in the window of a butcher shop, what makes seeing these images on a gallery wall different? There has to be a place for education in art. An exhibition like this will remind you of its importance, and will, hopefully, force you to alienate yourself from the familiar and take another look. www.mhartandframe.com