By Laurel Coniglio, SCC Volunteer
Watch the tourists at the Penn Mac cheese counter on a Saturday morning. It seems that everyone knows that The Strip is Pittsburgh’s place to eat well, including us neighborhood folk who love good food. As often as possible, I come down and shop for groceries, get a hot sauce slathered vegetarian burrito at Reyna’s, and head into Enrico Biscotti for a sweet treat.
And the food fun doesn’t stop when I come in to work at the Society for Contemporary Craft. You see, we take our position at the end of the historic Produce Terminal building very seriously, and we have dedicated an entire gallery space, EAT, to art about food.
The Produce Terminal was the heart of Pittsburgh’s wholesale produce marketplace and now that the Pittsburgh Public Market has revived that history to some extent it is befitting that we use this space to feature artists who focus on food in their work, connecting our artistic community with the neighborhood’s historical purpose.
The first time I walked into the SCC I noticed that they had a nice kitchenette in the gallery next to the office. Unfortunately, it looked as if they had a raging Friday-afternoon staff party and had neglected to bring the garbage bins out.There were beer bottles and soda bottles everywhere, as well as pizza boxes, Chinese takeout, and a half-eaten box of Hostess chocolate doughnuts. Looks like they had fun, I thought to myself, but as I leaned in closer I saw that all of the “trash” in the kitchen was actually handmade!
All of the bottles, which looked like plastic, were painstakingly blown out of bright green glass, down to the hand-drawn product labels with perfectly minute lettering. The entire space, filled with an artist’s comment on what we consider garbage, was thought out to the tiniest detail, in flame-worked glass, paper, and cardboard. This installation, titled The United State of America: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Crappiness, highlighted the work of internationally recognized local glass artist Matt Eskuche and addressed issues of individual wastefulness and irresponsibility.
The current EAT gallery exhibition, Stuffed Full, is in conjunction with the new main exhibition, DIY: A Revolution in Handicrafts. Featuring the work of California artist Lauren Venell of Sweet Meats, visitors will come to find a glass front, refrigerated case filled with meat...plush meat, that is. Lauren uses 100% recycled fleece and dyeing ingredients to created stuffed meat pillows such as pork chops, bacon, ham-bone and steak. In this installation the labeling and pricing of the products is done according the actual total cost of the meat being represented, including the environmental, human health, and other hidden costs associated with manufacturing and agriculture.
While retaining a sense of humor that draws in the viewer, these installations are serious comments on issues such as food safety and security, consumerism and consumption, and human’s relationship to nature and agriculture.