Let's Eat! Experience food as art at Oklahoma Contemporary - MetroFamily Magazine
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Let’s Eat! Experience food as art at Oklahoma Contemporary

by Erin Page

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Food as art?! Sign me up! One of my favorite things about Oklahoma Contemporary (besides the fact that admission is always FREE) is the continued opportunity to explore new understandings about what art is and how it shapes us as people and our world as a whole. The awe and delight my kids experience every time we visit is magical — they still talk about experiencing video games as art and a room paneled in sheets of chocolate!

The Art of Food, including David Hockney’s “Caribbean Tea Time” (1985-87).

And the newest exhibit, The Art of Food, will be sure to continue our collective family wonder!

The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation opens Feb. 2 and runs through May 22. Featuring more than 100 works on the subject of food by 36 well-known contemporary artists, the traveling exhibit The Art of Food explores that, beyond sustenance, food is a source of pleasure, an excuse to gather and a form of art that evolves as quickly as our tastes demand. 

Included are artworks by some of the biggest names in the field, including John Baldessari, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Lorna Simpson, and media such as painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture and ceramics. Whether celebratory or critical, each work presents a different, nuanced perspective on the central place food holds in everyday life. 

My next favorite thing about Oklahoma Contemporary is that viewing the art on display — and enjoying the accompanying hands-on activities in the Learning Gallery — always invites curious questions and conversations with my three kids. As families peruse the art, they will also have the opportunity consider where their food comes from, as well as the ways in which food and society inform one another.

The Art of Food, including Andy Warhol’s “Cow 1966.”

For example, farming is an integral part of Oklahoma’s history and character — working hard and putting food on the table resonate with our state culture and self-image. At the same time, immigrants from all over the world bring culinary traditions that enliven our social landscape. According to Oklahoma Contemporary: At a time when politics surrounding food — its production, regulation and distribution — dovetail with questions about land use, climate change and animal welfare, The Art of Food invites visitors to think of food as a language used to depict the dynamic and insatiable social lives of people around the world.

“Food is complex,” said Olivia Miller, the exhibition’s curator. “Not only is it a physical necessity, but it is also integral to our communities, relationships, cultures and memories. It’s a commodity, it’s a livelihood and it has ethical implications. This exhibition explores all of these facets of food and prompts us to consider our own relationships with it.”

Art is also just plain fun. Check out the sculptures of a wedding cake and a diner meal! Is it possible that seeing prints, paintings and drawings of fruits and vegetables will encourage our kids to eat more of them?!

Don’t miss the activities in the Learning Gallery, including an interactive on the Oklahoma State Meal (think: barbecued pork, chicken fried steak and biscuits with sausage gravy), the opportunity to create Andy Warhol-inspired artwork and learning from a display of works from a local artist who helped fight hunger.

Oklahoma Contemporary will offer a very creative menu of programs in conjunction with the exhibit,  including a talk with Native artist Neal Ambrose Smith and chef Loretta Barrett Oden on April 6, Studio School classes for all ages throughout the spring, camps during Spring Break and more. Free Second Saturday programs for families will include Second Saturday XL: Eat Your Art Out on March 11 and Edible Canvases on April 8.

And if you’re thinking all that art depicting food — and the deep conversation — will make you hungry, you’re in luck! The newly redesigned Café Contemporary features a delectable selection of baked goods (think scones, cinnamon rolls and giant cookies) alongside coffee and tea offerings. The just-launched lunch menu — available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — includes tasty sandwiches, creative salads and seasonal soups.

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