Art: It's What's for Dinner

Upon entering Silver Eye Center for Photography, the viewer is surrounded by images of alluring, vivid foods. The images are from a project called Behind the Mall by Diana Shearwood, a photographer based in Montreal, Canada. The exhibition, titled What’s for Dinner?, includes a few larger images hung alone and printed on canvas, and 78 smaller images that are hung in a grid dominating the wall.

What’s For Dinner? showcases advertisements for food on trucks from all over the world — China, Morocco, Canada, France, and the U.S. Linda Benedict-Jones, the executive director of Silver Eye, said that when she first saw Shearwood’s work on the Behind the Mall project, she instantly fell in love with it. “It was in your face, you just got it,” she said. The photographs are very bright, colorful, and lively; they serve the viewer with images of delicious-looking food, juicy and begging to be consumed. Images of avocados, chili peppers, slabs of steak, and cookies create a visual feast that is captivating and aesthetically pleasing. The colors and shapes draw the viewer in, but there is more information in this project than simply the layer of the visual. “This body of work was visually captivating and it also brings up an interesting discussion,” Benedict-Jones said.

Shearwood’s work addresses the food we buy and eat every day. Many people don’t seem to pay attention to where their produce comes from, but — even in the summer — most Americans’ apples and berries are not from the farm down the street but from the other side of the country or even the world. “In July, why doesn’t this supermarket have local food?” asked Shearwood in a press release. “There’s something wrong.”

Of her project, Shearwood said, “I began to document the ever-growing realm of vehicle wrapping. By focusing on these ubiquitous moving billboards, I hope to bring attention to the paradoxical reality that the 20 fresh foods that typically fill your shopping basket have traveled over 100,000 miles despite [the fact] that many of these items could be sourced nearby.” Her exhibit captures images — often humorous and sometimes disturbing — from mobile food advertising as well as the discussion associated with the process.

“In recent years, the transport of food from farm to fork has risen dramatically, leading to significant increases in CO2 emissions,” Shearwood said. “The irony is that even during the growing season when farm markets are crammed with local products, supermarkets are stocked with food from far away.” But it’s not as easy as that. The discussion becomes more complicated because the transport of food is an unavoidable reality in some respects; people expect fruit and vegetables in the wintertime, even in places where those foods cannot grow.

In our culture, the demand for all varieties of produce in every season has created the notion of what Shearwood calls “permanent global summertime.” She said, “As a result, the notion of seasonal produce has been replaced by a cheap, plentiful and steady supply of colorless bland commodities.”