Zeva Oelbaum

Taken For Looks:Imaging Food in Contemporary Photography

Southeast Museum of Photography, May 24–September 1, 2006

The interest in seriality and documentation carries over into Zeva Oelbaum’s art photography, which recalls Parr’s anthropologist leaning. Oelbaum subversively combines her used and rejected commercial food photographs to probe the underbelly and commodification of some of our most cherished rituals, raising the question of what giving pleasure means. The re-contextualized images expose the artifice of the commercially desirable photograph, while introducing all together new metaphoric identities. Cake Triptych explores the cake as a fetishistic icon and compensation for affection with invented scripts. Alluding to a common childhood pleasure, the bodiless Clown Cake is ironically the scariest, recalling the Dance of Salome and smacking of cannibalism like Allen’s popsicles; the Bon Voyage Cake posits a couple who travels around the world leaving their children behind; and the Basketball Cake critiques our adolescent obsession with sports and winning. The role of women takes center stage in Bride Diptych. The left panel features wedding cake, rejected because of the transgressive bride ornament falling backwards with her legs spread out. Oelbaum leaves in the edges of the backdrop and a clamp to echo the artificial expectations of marriage. The right panel captures the reality of daily chores by repeating the image of an arm rolling out dough. Shot originally for an instructional piecrust series, the resulting grid turns an already disembodied hand into an element of a larger abstract pattern.

—Sarah Tanguy, curator

©Sarah Tanguy, all rights reserved, may not be reproduced without permission
Taken For Looks: Imaging Food in Contemporary Photography