WAKEFIELD – When Hera Gallery chose ‘Dough’ as the subject of their latest exhibition, their staff may not have expected submissions from as far away as the Pacific Northwest.
But artists across the country were drawn to the unique theme, so that’s exactly what happened.
At their monthly board and exhibition committee meetings, the Hera gallery staff frequently discussed the theme of “dough,” gallery director Sonja Czekalski said, so much so that they decided to choose it for their exhibition.
“Inspired by the increased food insecurity caused by COVID-19, the lack of ‘dough’ as unemployment rates soared due to COVID-19, and the craze for sourdough starters appearing to be gaining the upper hand. overnight due to COVID-19 it seemed like the dough was on everything of our minds, ”Czekalski said.
“Dough” was certainly on the minds of the more than 100 people who also submitted their works to the exhibition. A juror chose 38 pieces for the show, and many of their creators, including New York City-based Carrie Smith, were invited to participate specifically because of the theme.
“As a former chef and migrant farmer, food and culinary subjects have been central to my sculptures and paintings,” Smith said.
Smith’s work, titled “Bread and Sandwiches,” used materials thrown away everyday – such as paper towel rolls, corrugated cardboard, and disposable coffee cups – to create the likeness of common foods, such as a baguette and a hamburger.
Although Smith used non-food materials to create her piece, many artists used bread shapes in their work – something Czekalski said she didn’t expect.
“The exhibition was open to all mediums, including video and installation,” Czekalski said. “It surprised me how many entrees are made with bread themselves, or are photographic documentations of works that were once made from bread – one piece was made almost 40 years ago – but it doesn’t no longer exists. “
One of those bread-based pieces was artist Lorna Barth’s submission, “Owl Be Watching You”. Barth lives in Washington State, in what she calls “the heart of the wheat country,” and she bakes her own bread three times a week.
So it was only natural that she recently started experimenting with sourdough as a base for painting with acrylics, inks and oil mediums – and “Owl Be Watching You” followed. Sourdough sourdough is a living, natural, wheat-based organic base, Barth said, and it can be molded into any shape the artist chooses.
Although artists like Barth adhered to the theme of “dough” using the dough as a medium, for others the theme could be found in the subject of their art.
Artist Michelle Marcotte, for example, painted the hands of her brother-in-law – an engineer and builder who started cooking while stuck at home due to COVID-19 – holding a pan of focaccia bread .
In his painting, titled “Bored Brother-in-Law’s Bread,” his hands are tilted to represent him presenting the bread as a gift.
“Like this one, most of my paintings talk about life and family through the lens of the foods we prepare and enjoy,” Marcotte said. “They paint a portrait of people, heritage and bring back memories of events.”
This theme of food and cooking extends beyond the submitted works. This also includes the show’s juror, who was chosen after a member of Hera suggested it, Czekalski said.
Juror Catherine Piccoli, director of conservation at the Museum of Food and Drink in New York City, was chosen for her “expertise in curating shows about food and culture,” Czekalski said.
Piccoli chose a wide variety of works for the exhibition – including a photography / video piece created by Portland, Ore., Based Julia Barbee who said she hoped to be accepted because she found the title. “Dough” “evocative and convincing”.
Barbee’s video captured her mother’s hands forming cookies, and the photo she used showed her grandparents’ cookie recipes, who were giving cooking classes together in rural North Carolina.
“I found the topic I shot very humorous because there were my two dueling grandparents with their cookie recipes on the same page,” Barbee said. “I really wish I could have attended their wedding and working relationship after this project.”
Although several of the artists come from far away from Rhode Island and were unfamiliar with Hera Gallery, many said they had a positive experience submitting to the exhibition.
“I was pleasantly and happily surprised by the Hera Gallery, which had excellent communication and had the opportunity for the participating artists to promote their work,” said Marcotte. “I was very happy to have participated in ‘Dough’ with the Hera Gallery.”
The public can explore “Dough” at the Hera Gallery in Wakefield until November 13 during normal gallery hours – Wednesday through Friday 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.