Gourmands of every palate and proclivity have taken to the web with the upshots of their wonderful, strange and whimsical food sensibilities. Part of what makes these blogs so successful is the gorgeous food art that accompanies them. Even Colette Hosmer’s sculptures of scraps could find a happy home in the increasingly crowded world of niche food blogs.
Hosmer’s exhibition at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is clear in scope. The pieces—which are predominantly organized in fish or pig (or both) series—are porcelain or cast iron, big or small, uniformly faced or turned (carefully) about.
Since her show has no title, let’s tentatively call it—and the hypothetical food blog—Odds & Ends. That’s because Hosmer focuses, for the most part, on the scraps of the aforementioned animals: fish heads and pig tails.
A variety of fish heads of uniform media either stand at attention like a school on a mission or turn asunder like one plagued by a predator. The soft throbs of their carved throats angle up as if in supplication, as if their severed fates could be changed.
Little pig tails—which one could only identify by the titles—prop up the fish and make their postures possible. Other works combine collections of pig tails, hearts and tails, or fat fleshy chunks marred by pigs’ eyes.
The exhibition’s main offerings come off a bit ascetic, especially when one considers the bounty broadcast from “Still Life w/ Hogshead” downstairs at Zane Bennett, and a number of Hosmer’s other thematically similar works not included in this exhibition. The still life, made of reinforced gypsum, oil paint and other media, is the open pantry of an unabashed cook. Speckled eggs, sifted flour, and mason jars filled with beans, fruit and pork rinds share space on its shelves with a nearly skinned reptilian rabbit and a hog’s half-gutted head.
The scene is a common Romantic tableau, diverging from that era with the use of installation instead of oil on canvas. Perhaps it’s the depth that gives viewers pause in front of a once-frequently depicted scene of raw foods, but I’d wager it’s our culture’s newfound, hopefully waning separation from our food sources that makes the work so alarming. Sitting in the basket, the pig has its jaw cleaved off for practicality more than gore. The rabbit is skinned because how else would one be able to eat it?
As for the pieces not included: a Jenga-style stack of once-thick-marrowed bones and a series of six plucked ducks, mangled in a manufactured manner to fit the space of a can.
Three singular pieces perhaps provide a key through which to understand the rest of the corpus. “Qian w/ Eighteen Pigtails,” “Li Wen w/ Sixty Three Fish” and “Kang w/ Big Fish” are all human faces with their titular creatures attached atop their heads.
Perhaps humans are not what they eat, but what they don’t: fish heads, pig tails, sundry lowly scraps. However, the scraps, not the bounty, make up the majority—in number of pieces and sheer mass—of the exhibition. Some cultures prize fish heads (and they are delicious). Our culture does not, and we are left with a wasteland because what is left has overshadowed our willingness to find it useful.