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From Seed to Supper

September 14, 2010 Through December 19, 2010
In the Rodney L. White Print Room

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A party in the Yoshiwara, from the series Shikidō tokkumi jūni-tsugai [Twelve bouts of lovemaking], 1775

Isoda Koryūsai (Japanese, 1735-1790)
Woodcut
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Isoda Koryūsai (Japanese, 1735-1790), A party in the Yoshiwara, from the series Shikidō tokkumi jūni-tsugai [Twelve bouts of lovemaking]

From the tilling of the soil to the washing of the dishes, nearly every step in food's journey from production to consumption has been represented in the visual arts. Whether planted or hunted, cooked or purchased, eaten as basic sustenance or in celebration, food has worked its way into numerous prints, drawings, and photographs, as the focus of a composition or as an accessory.

While still lifes featuring comestibles hold a prominent place in the history of art, artists have created food-related images in a broad diversity of styles, each presenting unique cultural concerns and associations. In the production of food, depictions of the farmer in fine art range from nostalgic to downtrodden, and have occasionally been elevated to political icon. Those who cook or prepare food experience no less iconographic manipulation in the hands of the artist, with gender roles also apparent.

In its consumption, food is critical to both social interactions and religious practices. While specific rituals vary widely, as can be seen in images that range from an 18th-century Japanese woodcut illustrating the offering of sake to a courtesan to a 19th-century depiction of the Last Supper, food fuels not only the human body but also the relationships, religions, economies and other social structures that dictate our lives.

Curated by Sadie Shillieto ('09), Art Museum Advisory Board Fellow

From Seed to Supper is one of two Mount Holyoke College Art Museum exhibitions that are part of the Museums 10 collaboration, Table for 10.