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OnlineMay 23, 2024

Eat With Your Eyes Offers Temptations at Gallery 263

Sumptuous displays of edibles invite spectators to understand the ties between food and greater cultural patterns.

Quick Bit by Dylan Bunyak

A set of artworks, the centerpiece featuring bright, bold colors, on display against a white wall at Gallery 263.

Installation view, “Eat With Your Eyes,” Gallery 263, Cambridge, 2024. Courtesy of Gallery 263.

Gallery 263’s newest group exhibition, “Eat With Your Eyes,” can be seen from a block away. Hanging against the front window is Cakescape 13, a tapestry printed with vibrant fruits and oozing baked goods by Marcel Marcel, a queer installation artist with a studio in the Boston Center for the Arts. As you enter the sun-soaked space, you see the fabric floating to your left, and the other twenty-four artists’ works surround you, inviting you to indulge.

Silvia Bottinelli, the juror for “Eat with Your Eyes,” serves as a senior lecturer and the chair of the Visual and Material Studies Department at the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. The author of four books, she’s studied food in art for most of her career, making her a clear curatorial choice for this unconventional topic. This art sampling was gathered through an open call asking artists from all over the country to submit work about “food in all of its glorious iterations, sensory experiences, and narratives.”

Installation view, “Eat With Your Eyes,” Gallery 263, Cambridge, 2024. Courtesy of Gallery 263. Marcel Marcel, Cakescape 13, 2024.

The chosen pieces have little in common beyond their subject matter, and even that may be contested, with some artworks centering ideas of sustainability, family values, or preservation more than the food itself. Mediums span from edible, with white chocolate statues, tea bag cyanotypes, and coffee grounds packed into glass vessels, to ephemeral, with movie theater popcorn captured through a digital photograph and a monitor looping a performance art piece. A few of the pieces are strikingly beautiful, like Adina Andrus’s glistening Patina, which hovers a few inches from the wall, almost reaching out to viewers. The gilded lace-like piece is part of New York-based Andrus’s series Culinaria, in which she translates Greek and Roman recipes pictorially before painting the patterns onto recycled grocery bags. In this way, she immortalizes the traditional foods of families and communities while speaking to the concerns of future generations, repurposing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Similarly eye-catching are Kiana Ruth Beckmen’s ceramic dishes and Mod Podge matzah crackers, both usable and haunting. Beckmen recently completed her MFA at Tufts University and creates interdisciplinarily to capture relationships between religion, history, and culture. Lilith’s Shabbat, consisting of cups, bowls, tablecloths, and candle holders, continues in this tradition; the splashes of glaze feel ironically unceremonious.

Installation view, “Eat With Your Eyes,” Gallery 263, Cambridge, 2024. (left) Adina Andrus, Patina, 2023. (top right) Kristen Wheatley, Feedings (CARB), 2024. (bottom right) Michaela Morse, my dried hot drinks (jars #47, 48, 49), 2023. Courtesy of Gallery 263.

Quincey Spagnoletti, Calling Grandma for her Birthday, 2023. Archival inkjet print. 20″ x 16″. Courtesy of Quincey Spagnoletti.

Used as the cover image for the exhibition, Quincey Spagnoletti’s surreal photograph Calling Grandma for her Birthday seats a pair of crossed waxy legs at a dinner table overrun with baked goods, some of which are impaled by forks and kitchen knives. This bizarre contrast, brought together by a contemporary artist with a clear message, encapsulates the show well.  Part of her series Lengthy Expectations, the scene is familiar yet strange, the confectionaries twisted into something sinister. Here Spagnoletti layers the iconography of food with subtext about female performance and expectations, fulfilling one of the exhibition’s goals: using art to tie food to greater cultural patterns.

Gallery 263 seeks to provide Cambridge with a community-driven art space, and most of the artists in “Eat With Your Eyes” are local to New England, despite the national call. This delivers a sense of camaraderie and increases interest in other local shows, such as Tufts’s “Pulling Teeth and Jumping Rope,” which features Spagnoletti’s and Beckmen’s work, as well as that of Megan Hyde (responsible for the white chocolate sculptures The Grooms). With many accessible price points and little wall text, the exhibition is refreshingly unpretentious while still showcasing art and messages that are relevant to the current moment. The works feel communal, sensual, and familiar, presenting food in a way that calls back to fond memories and cultural events. Gallery 263 shines as the meeting place for these many artists and pieces, amplifying local voices and putting together a show full of literal and figurative eye candy.

“Eat With Your Eyes” is on view at Gallery 263 through May 25, 2024.

Dylan Bunyak

Fellow

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