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On Friday, June 6th, Sweetness, an exhibition of work in various media by 5 women artists, opened at the Sherman Gallery on the Boston University campus. The show, curated by Lynne Cooney has succeeded in creating an exhibit of women artists working with ideas or imagery of food without leaving the bad taste in your mouth. When I first heard about the exhibit sadly my initial reaction was something like, “great another exhibition about the historically bad relationship between women and food, eating and depression.” I could not have been more wrong, Sweetness is so appropriately titled because the work is both visually delectable and thought provoking.

As soon as you enter the gallery on you will see Shira Avidor’s painting of woman in classic Vermeer style on your right. Her work is both technically beautiful and strangely uncomfortable. The figure in the image is in the historically noble looking in her three quarter pose from the bust up but is surrounded entirely by small tarts. (Little mini cherry pie looking treats). She does not look as if she notices or rather she looks at you as if you are not to notice her odd background. While this piece does seem to imply some familiar things, the sweet wife, the upper-class decadence, the pastry chef laboring in the kitchen, what I enjoyed was that it is non of the above, it is only a hint but no answer. But most of all Avidor’s painting could not be put into the category of being about women and their problems with food, weight or self-image.

About half way towards the back of the exhibit was a series of drawings by Susan Belton. While I have been familiar with Belton’s still life coffee cup paintings for a long time these drawings were a fun surprise. They look like a film documenting the place someone puts their coffee on their desk everyday as they drink it and then put it back down but not quite in the same place. I enjoyed the inclusion of these drawings because in the midst of a lot of work that was about stillness and observation Belton’s work to me is all about the things we take with us and ingest to keep us going, and going, and going.

Then as you move to the back of the gallery there is a series of small paintings on paper doilies. These paintings by Candice Smith Corby are in appetizer size and main dish presentation. The detailed images of furniture and food balancing in towers like compositions are painted on delicate paper doilies that you would see beneath a cake, or a bread for decorative presentation. The images made me think about food and place, about how I could never eat in the formal living room because I might make a mess. So even though when I look at her work and think and feel that fear of spilling on the carpet, I also have the contradicting feeling of how fun it would be to pile up my food on the coffee table until it began to topple over. On the adjacent to the doily drawings there was a wall size piece of the same imagery. It felt like it would fall over on top of you.

At the opening of Sweetness the reception table was covered with small French pastries of varying flavors and forms. They too were part of the experience of seeing the exhibit. A guilty pleasure that did not seem to make me feel guilty at all, in fact I felt like I was eating part of the exhibition itself. Over all there was a great variety of work in different media, but most of all it was fun to see, the work was interesting and it showed a sweeter side of women working with food imagery with out being saccharine or sour.

The Sherman Gallery

"Sweetness" is on view until July 28th at the Sherman Gallery at Boston University.

All images are courtesy of Alpha Gallery, Miller Block Gallery and the artists.

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