The Sweet Taste of Maple Syrup by Mariane Gopalkrishna (Ernest Mayer)
One of my favourite bowls in our home is a heavy earthenware vessel by Canadian artist Marianne Gopalkrishna. It's a huge bowl, meaning it only gets used for dinner parties, which I love to throw. Its numerous chips attest to its use through the years.
So when I entered the new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Feast, I was immedately drawn to Gopalkrishna's enormous serving platter called The Sweet Taste of Maple Sugar. It's a folksy scene depicting a snowy landscape filled with trees, farm animals and lots of busy people. Some of them are tapping sugar out of maple trees while others are gathered around a table enjoying their sweet repast. Figures dance around the edge of the platter, bringing the story to life.
Not being an art critic myself, but - next best thing in this case - an avid food blogger and enthusiastic cook, I was hungry to take on the task of blogging about the exhibit for SCENE.
I've always thought of food as culture. It's also about sharing, generosity and celebrating. Feast explores the role food plays in our community and how it brings us together. Judging by this exhibit, the enjoyment of food touches us on many levels and inspires artists in a myriad of ways.
Feast was curated by the WAG educators and presents a rich and varied smorgasbord of works from the permanent collection. Works range from traditional and richly coloured still lives by Richard Jack and Caven Atkins, to the politically charged Lead Bread by Michel Goulet that involves eight shotguns propped up under encyclopedias. And there are fun ones, like Lidi Kuiper's nine vivid carrots lined up in a row, called Weight Watchers Delight.
A traditional Inuit depiction of a caribou feast by Mark Emerak reminds us how food is connected to ritual and community. Certainly some of my favourite memories have taken place around the dinner table - the annual Christmas Eve celebration with family, lunch out on the deck at the cottage or a romantic picnic by a stream in France.
There are also many vessels on display, including lots of teapots, silver ladles and, falling under the category of "things you didn't know you needed," two pretty glass celery holders.
Other works address food at the ordinary level of comfort, such as Fritz Brandtner's ink on paper of a chip truck.
I was drawn into Kelly Clark's photomontage, The Studio: Dinner with George. The dinner is over, and it was obviously a casual affair, as the table is covered with empty wine bottles, plastic cups and tinfoil cartons. Even though the people have left the picture, I could still feel their presence and imagine they were satisfied and well-satiated.
After viewing the exhibit I took a seat at the kitchen table in the centre of the room and perused the recipes and memories shared on recipe cards by other visitors.
The whole experience helped me appreciate the visual arts in a different way - as it relates to my life - and left me hankering to pull down my big old Gopalkrishna bowl from the cupboard, fill it up with some comforting pasta and invite a bunch of friends over to help me enjoy it.
Pictured above: Dinner Service by Russel Wright Associates, 1939-1957; Fritz Brandtner, French Fries at Fletcher's Field (Ernest Mayer) and Feast comments and recipes (CBC)