Any food-lover knows that every culinary creation must start somewhere, and that place is usually the grocery store. Now through September 1st, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is featuring "Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles," an exhibition that highlights the role of grocery stores in modern culture.
We met with Emily Stamey, curator of the exhibit, to learn about how "Stocked" came into being and what she hopes visitors will take from it. Stamey said that as the exhibit came into being, she was operating as "an art historian thinking about pop art from the 1960s." She combined this with her self-proclaimed "foodie" status, and set about discovering what contemporary art tells us about the food culture we live in. Since "Stocked" is undoubtedly worth a visit (or two or three...), here are five reasons why it belongs on your summer must-see list.
There's a lot more than just Andy Warhol.
Yes, of course you thought of Andy Warhol the second your brain processed "food" and "art" in the same sentence. You should. In fact, his prints Hot Dog Bean and Vegetarian Vegetable are the first things you see when you enter the exhibition. Warhol's art remains stunning, but it is also fascinating to trace his influence among the other pieces of food-centered art. Most notable of a Warhol influence is Scott Blake's artwork, I Am What I Eat. Blake painted 32 different barcodes from food items in his pantry, which is the same number of soup can paintings Warhol first made in 1962 (and on the same canvas size, too). And what better way to mix 1960s pop art into the present than to use a scanner app on your smartphone to bring up the actual item that corresponds to each of Blake's barcodes? Because yes, you can totally do that.
Each piece has a deeper meaning for you to find.
Stamey explains that "Stocked" as an exhibit title has a double meaning. The gallery is stocked full of art like the shelves of a grocery store would be, but each piece is also stocked with more meaningful interpretations that what first meets the eye. Julian Montague's collection titled The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America displays his efforts to form a classification system for all of those shopping carts that wind up in questionable places. Stamey points out that at first glance, the art (and accompanying book) seem to resemble a bird-watching chart in clever way. But, after understanding Montague's reasoning for his work, you'll be blown away by how much abandoned shopping carts can say about class and societal issues. This is true for just about every piece of art in the exhibit, so come with your thinking goggles on.
Everything is sprinkled with humor.
Definitely search for that deeper meaning, but don't forget to laugh too. "Stocked" is full of beautiful art that is serious, but doesn't take itself too seriously. From more straightforward attempts to make you snicker, such as Jonathan Seliger's bag sculpture Seasonal, to works that require a bit more time to process, the lingering sense of humor in "Stocked" reinforces how culturally connected we are because of grocery stores. Another must-see is a video feature, The Hunt, by performance artist Christian Jankowski. As Jankowski, bow and arrow in hand, wanders the aisles of the store, shooting his purchases and casually loading them into his cart, you'll giggle as you are struck by the absurdity of how easy grocery stores make our lives.
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You'll never think about making a grocery list the same way.
According to Stamey, the media has been most in love with the grocery list artwork, and it is easy to understand why. Hillary Carlip's portraits from her art book A La Carte: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers show what happens when she creates imaginary identities for the individuals behind real grocery lists. While you're observing Carlip's work you'll find yourself desperately trying to remember the last grocery list you made (and probably worrying about how much it says about you). Don't forget to check out Adriane Herman's grocery list art, too: she transforms such seemingly disposable objects into historical-looking artifacts that speak for our current civilization.
You'll be entranced--and duh, indoors--for hours.
There is really nothing better than a stimulating activity to keep you cool and entertained during a Phoenix summer, and "Stocked" is exactly that. Stamey said she has been thrilled with how visitors have spent so much time with each piece of art. The exhibit, with its wide-open feel, bright lights, and colorful art, is even reminiscent of a grocery store. By adding vivid green paint to the mix, Stamey even hoped to remind visitors of produce and the healthy, environmentally-conscious vibe that grocery stores are increasingly aiming for. Once you've viewed all the artwork that "Stocked" has to offer, you'll more than likely find yourself wanting to make another round of the exhibit. And trust us, you should.