We’re told, from a young age, not to play with our food. It’s clear many artists never listened. Throughout time, their creative experiments with edible objects — from vegetable-based dyes on colorful canvases to sculptures crafted from cocoa confections — have produced numerous masterworks.
A panel of experts explored the ways in which the history of food in art tells a story of creativity and craftsmanship during a virtual talk Wednesday sponsored by the Harvard Art Museums, presented in partnership with the Food Literacy Project at Harvard University Dining Services.
It’s a culinary history that underlies many of the works in Harvard’s collection.
For a literal case of food as art object one has to look no further than the museums’ “Chocolate Lion (Self-Portrait as a Lion),” a small sculpture created from marbled chocolate by German artist Dieter Roth in 1971. It is an atypical take, but not for Roth. Often the aim of self-portraiture is at least superficially a representation of the artist. Roth, however, who was known for his use of unconventional materials, frequently turned to chocolate to create “representations of himself in line with his belief that works of art should ‘change like man himself, grow old and die,’” said Lauren Hanson, the Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum. “Roth used chocolate not to create a natural likeness of himself, but to manifest the truth of his human body and the knowledge that it will age, deteriorate, and eventually turn to dust.”