Food is an undeniably important part in our lives. The way we acquire it, the way we prepare it, and the people we share it with are unique to every individual. That diversity is the subject matter of a new exhibition on display at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. In Eat Drink Man Woman, nearly a dozen artists use a variety of media to explore the subject of food, and the results are often unexpected and thought-provoking.
Eat Drink Man Woman is named after Ang Lee’s 1994 film of the same name, which also serves as the exhibition’s introductory piece. The film examines the ritual of food preparation and the ways in which it can bring families together, and as you wander further into the exhibit, the inclusion of the film makes perfect sense.
Many aspects of food are explored in Eat Drink Man Woman, but the amount of actual food on display is minimal. Fiona Kinsella is one of the few artists who uses food in her work. Her cakes are constructed of wood, and she uses actual icing to decorate the frames of her models. But while the icing makes her cakes look very realistic, she also uses far less conventional media to decorate the cakes, including teeth, used glass eyes, and hair. Kinsella also gets more abstract with some of her other works on display. Using huge globs and layers of oil paint on canvas (some of which were still drying when I visited), she created several highly textured sculptural “paintings” that look almost edible.
Elsewhere, the artistic depiction of food is more along the lines of the expected. Chris Shepherd’s collection of photography gives an after-hours look at several Toronto restaurants. And while freezers and diner furniture are not groundbreaking subject matter, his lovely, colourful images still evoke meaning for anyone who has fond memories of such restaurants.
Colwyn Griffith takes a tongue-in-cheek view of food with his work “Graceland”. Griffith built a model of Elvis’s famed Memphis mansion out of junk food, complete with wafer roofing and gumdrop shrubbery, and then photographed it for display. It’s easy to spend a long time trying to distinguish the various foods employed. It creates an effect reminiscent of the “I Spy” books that require children to look for small objects in bigger images. However, the piece can be enjoyed on many levels, since—as the exhibition booklet suggests—Griffith is also making a statement about how food commodities sustain colonialism.
Eat Drink Man Woman is a fun and diverse exhibition. Each artist offers their own view on food preparation and consumption, and each of these different perspectives is interesting in its own right. There are many different media used, including sculpture, photography, video, and painting, a tactic that seems to reflect the many different ways people interact with food. With so many different ideas on display, Eat Drink Man Woman is bound to make you think about food in a new way.
Eat Drink Man Woman runs until December 22; admission is free. For more information, visit artgalleryofmississauga.com. There will be a free curator’s walk with Tara Marshall and Cole Swanson on December 8 at 7 p.m.