Thursday, November 18, 2010

EATLACMA Goes Out in Style

Last week I went to the closing event for EATLACMA, the amazing food-related art exhibition at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  The exhibition was curated by LACMA curator Michele Urton and the group Fallen Fruit.  I originally wrote about this show in September when I first saw it, but I had no idea that the closing event would be such an extravaganza.

Doughnut wall at EATLACMA, November 2010.
It is always great to see LACMA embracing newer, fresher ideas about what art can be.  Gone are the days of spending a quiet hour in the empty halls of the Ahmanson Building gazing longingly at the micromosaic collection (although I must admit that I deeply miss that collection of beautiful tiny objects.)  Last Sunday, the atrium of the Ahmanson Building was jam-packed with crowds watching numerous events, including a scantily-clad Michelle Carr doing a recreation of Josephine Baker's Banana Dance.  My daughter and I stumbled upon this performance on our way out of the bathroom.  I was surprised to find myself launching into an impromptu discussion of Josephine Baker's work based on the question, "Mommy, why is that woman wearing a banana skirt?"  I was similarly surprised to encounter a wall full of half-eaten doughnuts and a watermelon eating contest presided over by Miss Barbie-Q.  And the surprises just kept coming.
Digging up potatoes as part of The Way Potatoes Go.

Washing our potatoes at LACMA.
With over fifty artists and artist collectives participating, it was impossible to see everything.  In the end we focused on two events-- The Way Potatoes Go-- From Dirty to Mouth by ├ůsa Sonjasdotter and Bari Ziperstein's 1,095: One Year's Worth of Other People's Plates.  We stumbled upon the great potato project because the girls saw dirt and needed to get their hands in it.  Brilliant.  It was really fun to dig around in the potato plot which sprouted out of the courtyard's concrete slab.  The garden plot was divided by a row of plaques which described the history and characteristics of the potatoes that grew in each section.  Viewers could dig up the potato of their choice, wash it off, and take it to be cooked and eaten on site.  Our group didn't have the patience to wait for potatoes to cook, but we did pocket a few to steam at home.  We also contributed a small donation for a brochure that listed all the information contained on the plaques.  Since the show, I've been contemplating growing potatoes in our garden and plan to use this brochure  to help select potato varieties.  With any luck, our garden will be producing "Lumpers" and "Pink Fir Apple" potatoes by next summer.

Bari Ziperstein (center) builds plate mandala.
After prying garden trowels out of my girls' dirty fingers, we finally made our way to our ultimate destination-- Bari Ziperstein's 1,095: One Year's Worth of Other People's Plates.  I'd read about it the first time we saw the show and was intrigued by the idea of an artist collecting 1,095 plates, the number of plates a person would need to eat three meals a day for one year.  (Assuming, of course, that the person ate off a new plate for each meal.)

I loved being able to contribute plates to the project, but I didn't expect to have my photo taken with the plates when the girls and I dropped them off at Bari's studio.  Each plate was carefully numbered and documented as they were contributed to the project.  On the day of the closing event, this collection of plates was assembled into a mandala.  At 3:30 pm, participants were allowed to choose new plates in exchange for the number of plates they had previously contributed.  Like most public art events, there was a certain amount of confusion regarding plate selection etiquette. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was partially responsible for what I believe was the day's only plate-crashing incident.  I was in line behind a very nice photographer who was slowly perusing the collection.  When he lifted a large, ugly plate to reveal a stack of small plates shaped like ears of corn, I couldn't help letting out a squeal of delight.  They were just what I was looking for-- kitschy, classic, and fun all at once.  The photographer heard my excitement and tried to help me by picking up the plate for me.  Unfortunately, his long camera lens smacked into a pile of plates in front of him and knocked a glass sphere off the top of the stack.  It went crashing to the floor and broke into a thousand tiny pieces.  The crowd gasped in unison and then broke into applause.  It was fantastic.  I got my corn plate, along with three other charming keepsakes.

All in all, it was a great day for art, and my only regret is that we didn't see more of it.  I look forward to inviting Bari over to our house next summer to eat home-grown heirloom potatoes off our new/old plates.
The plate selection frenzy begins.