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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Latino Arts Explores Food as a Social Bond

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A new exhibition at Latino Arts examines the social rituals connected to food in Latin culture. "Tasting Cultures: The Art of Latino Foodways," on display at the Latino Arts Gallery in the United Community Center, features the work of 25 artists from locations including Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and the United States.

Some of the artists incorporated actual food into their works. Among the pieces are a sculpture made from wax and chocolate, a crib of corn husks, and a stark installation that seats a woven skeleton on cans of Borden's sweetened condensed milk—a product that has particular symbolic significance in Latin cultures, explains Latino Arts Artistic Director Zulay Febres-Cordero.

"A lot of Latin American kids grew up with that as an after-school snack," Febres-Cordero says. "We would open up those cans and suck the juice out. The scarcity of milk made it a novelty, but it was so sugary and unhealthy that it was something we didn't need to have."

Nutrition is a running theme throughout the "Tasting Cultures" pieces, along with community.

"Food is a reason to celebrate, a cause for people to come together," Febres-Cordero says. "We wanted to examine the social construction that is woven through food, and reflect on what goes into food-making and how we can simplify our diets. Some of the foods we eat today can be really terrible for us. And with the speed at which we go about our days, we are losing the ritual of eating at the table. Once you finish eating, it's nice to just sit and relax over empty plates, but a lot of people don't do that anymore. We wanted to convey the importance of going back to food that really had nutritional and social value."

The exhibit runs through July 21.