Hungry: Artists and North Carolina’s Food

Presented at The University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Elliott University Center Gallery

September 10- September 28, 2012

Featuring the work of
Phil Blank, Rachel Campbell, Chris FowlerKate Medley, and Emily Wallace
& curated by Graham Hoppe

   HUNGRY: ARTISTS AND NORTH CAROLINA’S FOOD examines the relationship North Carolina artists have to the foodways surrounding them. The exhibit includes the work of Illustrators, painters and photographers and ranges from personal reactions on what we eat to pure documentation of what we see.

   There is perhaps no cultural cornerstone more important to everyday life than food. Food literally is life, sustenance, a gatekeeper that allows us to continue on to the next day. HUNGRY suggests that equally important is food’s social role. What we eat, and how and where we eat it is critically important in how we define who we are.

   It seems that there is an irrepressible urge within the south to define itself. Through language, music, culture, and food, southerners have defined, redefined and self explored to a greater extent than any other region in the country. This intense cultural self examination has led to what is perhaps the richest cultural identity in America. Southern cuisine has also proven remarkably exportable, at least within the US. Southern food has shown such enduring popularity and recurring vogue, that in many ways American cuisine in general has undergone a marked ‘southernization’.

To partisans of traditional southern food there is a somewhat uncomfortable recognition of the fact that for all of the south’s locavore tendencies and its emphasis on cooking in the home, to many Americans southern food is a fast food. The ubiquitous presence of fast southern food has meant that it often takes a conscious effort to experience traditional southern foodways. How do we come to terms with the uncomfortable truth that many southerners had their first taste of their regional birthright at a Cracker Barrel or KFC? It is heartening to see the ways co-ops and farmers’ markets have attempted to stem this tide, and there is a new generation of food producers and cooks who are embracing traditional, often more difficult, methods of work. These movements are a by-product of an increasing desire for social interaction. At its best, food is itself a social art form, and the interactions it provokes can be profound.

   There are few things dearer to North Carolina than its cuisine. Carolina’s food is quintessentially southern, and thus more connected to the farm and home than most regions. The south has in many ways maintained a locavore lifestyle (often out of necessity) before such a thing became fashionable. This is a cuisine that comes from soil and toil, and tries hard not to forget it. In focusing on the cuisine of the old north state, the artists in this exhibition are exploring what it means to live here.

Graham Hoppe
August 2012