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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Latino Arts' 'Tasting Cultures' a Feast for the Eyes and Mind

Art Review

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"Cakes are there for the sweetening of the angry lover's heart." This unusual statement redefines the purpose of cake and demonstrates an element of a photographic series in which a particular food symbolizes a ritualistic or spiritual connection to the physical body. These connections transform the mere act of eating into an art form. Through this photographic series and other artwork, Latino Arts Inc. explores diverse culinary experiences and cultural identities in the exhibition "Tasting Cultures: The Arts of Latino Foodways."

In "Tasting Cultures," approximately 30 artists celebrate food using ceramics, installations, paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures. The 40-plus artworks on display were co-curated with the Tasting Cultures Foundation Inc., an organization with members that believe food creates a pathway for education and understanding.

One untitled installation features a dozen handmade paper bowls placed on pedestals constructed from carved twigs. The vessels lend themselves to layered meanings because the bowls serve food, nourishment and life (as in a baptismal font or womb), and reflect the inside/outside identity of body and home. Each bowl is sculpted from the pulp of recycled paper, and the kaleidoscope of color implies overflowing vessels.

In Chocolate Trance, Eneida Sanchez sculpts five faces, three hands, a forearm and a foot from chocolate wax and essence. In past societies, like the Mayans, chocolate embodied intoxicating, mystical properties. In contemporary U.S. culture, there is a fascination with the food's potentially healthful antioxidants. The human parts mounted on the wall appear to reflect the duality of chocolate—bitter or sugary sweet, inviting or foreboding in its powers.

Another installation speaks to an empty stomach and hunger pangs. For Sopa de Margaritas (Soup of Daisies), Ximena Soza dangles four garments from the ceiling. On each garment, Soza stitches daisy chains in a circle where the stomach would be. On the floor beneath the clothing, a river formed from spices and dried beans symbolically flows away from those who have don't have the means to satisfy their longings. The artwork references a Latin custom that says, "When there is no food to offer a family, you offer a soup of flowers and love."

Food is an essential component of human survival, and the works in this exhibition examine the complex concepts surrounding what we eat. Enjoy the accompanying cravings when visiting "Tasting Cultures," an exhibition that extends an imaginary open vessel reflecting the mind, body and spirit.

"Tasting Cultures: The Arts of Latino Foodways" continues through July 21.

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