Panel 1: Consumption and Commerce
Rebecca Szantyr, Brown University, “From Street to Mouth: Imaging and Regulating New York City’s Foodways, ca. 1840”
As an émigré artist in nineteenth century New York, Nicolino Calyo’s drawings of street peddlers have been understood as an American take on the European print tradition of city “Cries.” This paper examines how Calyo not only adapted and localized this genre for his audiences, but also how his images contend with contemporary practices and debates over how to sustain an ever-growing metropolis.
Katia Zavistovski, Rice University, “Milk and Materiality: Joe Goode and the Common Object in 1960s LA”
This paper examines the shifting nature of objecthood and consumption in mid-century America through a close reading of Los Angeles-based artist Joe Goode’s milk bottle paintings. Created between 1961 and 1963, each work in the series comprises an oil-on-canvas monochrome, in front of which stands a glass milk bottle from a local Los Angeles dairy thickly coated in paint. While considering the changing Southern California landscape and the role that food production played in shaping it, this study argues that through his emphasis on milk, Goode reinvested the painterly mark with a concentrated focus on materiality and corporeality—and in so doing asserted the productive capacity of figurative painting at a time in which such a practice increasingly seemed an anachronistic pursuit.
Grace Sparapani, University of Texas at Austin, “Bearers of Production”: The Auto-Producing Body in Mika Rottenberg’s NoNoseKnows
This paper examines food as it exits the body, not as it enters it. Using the video NoNoseKnows (2015) by artist Mika Rottenberg (b. 1976), which features oysters, factory workers, and a 6’4” fetish-performer-cum-office-worker with the power to sneeze noodles, this paper investigates how a body may be a “bearer of production,” as Rottenberg calls it, and create using nothing than that which it already contains, taking at most an external disturbance to catalyze said production. What can oysters and noodles teach us about auto-production and about bodies in labor?
Panel 2: Representing the Sacred
Amanda K. Chen, University of Maryland, “Banqueting for Life and Loss in Ancient Etruria”
Among the painted tombs of Etruria, depictions of banquets appear more frequently than nearly any other subject. Through an investigation of the nexus between Etruscan art production, archaeology, and mortuary practice, looking specifically at funerary and non-funerary images of banquets and the Tomba Golini I in Orvieto, Italy, this paper aims to offer a better understanding of the culinary facet of Etruscan funerary celebrations, as an essential aspect of Etruscan mortuary belief and ritual.
Whitney A. Kite, Tufts University, “Hoṙomos, Sacred Wine, and the First Žamatun”
The origins of the žamatun, a characteristic structure of medieval Armenian monasteries, have long eluded scholars. The tenth-century monastery of Hoṙomos contains the first extant žamatun, providing a unique context for analysis of these enigmatic buildings. An unusual relief of a grapevine, together with a vineyard donation recorded in the foundation inscription on the tympanum, alludes to a close tie between wine and the conception of the first žamatun.
Cristina Garza, Syracuse University, “Edible Abstinence: Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper and the Florentine Refectory Tradition”
While early modern scholars have produced a plethora of research on Florentine refectory paintings, Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper of c. 1550-1568 continues to be one of the least studied works of its kind. This paper examines the symbolic and religious significance of the foodstuff depicted by Nelli while contextualizing her Last Supper within a gastro-centric notion of spiritual wellness in the early modern period.
Panel 3: Creating Identities
Caroline Gillaspie, CUNY Graduate Center, “Fueling the Union: Coffee Consumption in Winslow Homer’s Civil War Images”
This paper centers on Civil War-era paintings and prints by Winslow Homer (1836–1910) that feature Union Soldiers drinking coffee at camp. Rainy Day in Camp (1871) depicts a small scene of comfort within the bleak conditions at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1862 as weary soldiers gather around a campfire awaiting their ration of coffee that boils in a large “mucket.” An examination of such images reveals a deeply ingrained desire for the beverage in the U.S. by the nineteenth century, and the ostensible necessity of this stimulating draught for the war effort.
Isabella Lores-Chavez, Columbia University, “Sweet Illusions: The Colonial Still Life in the Age of Chocolate Exchange”
The highly illusionistic still life Alacena (Cupboard) made by the colonial painter Antonio Pérez de Aguilar around 1769 manifests the lively artistic exchange that occurred between painters in the New World and their European counterparts. Engaging devices from the European tradition of trompe l’oeil, Pérez de Aguilar juxtaposes local and imported objects—from Chinese porcelain to vessels used for drinking chocolate—that link Creole identity to European cultural preoccupations. At the same time, Alacena establishes a hierarchy of creativity in which only the painter’s inventiveness surpasses the artisanal products from diverse origins that populate his still life.
Sophia Merkin, Columbia University, “Stick a Fork in it: An Eco-Critical Reappraisal of Fijian Cannibalism and Iculunibakola”
Fijian iculunibakola have long fascinated and captivated western audiences; better known by their moniker of ‘cannibal forks,’ these utensils embodied the alleged savagery of Pacific Islanders during the colonial period. Given the disputed practice of Fijian cannibalism, how can we understand the assumed and infamous narrative attached to these utensils, which in many ways has come to surpass the objects themselves? The acquired meanings of these objects can be explained through ontologies of eco-criticism and entanglement, which allow for an interpretation of these objects within the larger context of human structures of anthropophagy and cannibalism, colonialism, and exoticism.