Visiting Artist Andrew McCaen’s Exhibit Explores the Role of Food in Everyday Life

Alexie Muriel
Staff Writer

“I find myself looking with curiosity at the space, time and manner in which we eat, prepare and acquire our meals,” said artist Andrew DeCaen on the inspiration for his exhibit Sustenance, which opened in the Mariboe Gallery on March 22. DeCaen worked to demonstrate how food can be viewed as a form of culture, science and an artistic statement.

The Mariboe Gallery currently features Andrew McCaen's exhibit "Sustenance" that examines the role of food in life. (Photo by Daniel Chang)
The Mariboe Gallery currently features Andrew McCaen’s exhibit “Sustenance” that examines the role of food in life. (Photo by Daniel Chang)
“The gallery opening was detailed and personal, and the ideas that Andrew DeCaen talked about were presented in a way that was very easy to understand,” said Soo Joo ’13.

To demonstrate the importance of food in everyday life in his piece “Sweet Spoonful,” DeCaen reenacted the famous “A Spoonful of Sugar” scene from Mary Poppins by sculpting a glucose molecule.

“My favorite piece was ‘Sweet Spoonful’,” said Xiating Chen ’13. “I like its connection with Mary Poppins. As Decaen put it, humans are designed to be addicted to sugar, but we try to restrain the amount of sugar we have in daily meals. That was an interesting point.”

The exhibit also featured a drawing of a napkin with an imprint of a young girl eating, a lunch tray with a food print on it and a drawing of an irritated woman eating pasta.

“I really liked the piece that featured a woman sitting at a table with a tray folding around her,” said Emily Fu ’16. “The tray resembled someone’s jaw. It created an interesting space that made me see this connection between us and the food we eat. Eating is so routine and important to our survival, it’s practically embedded into us.”

DeCaen’s family was also featured in many of his pieces, such as in a sculpture made to resemble a popcorn bag that had an imprint on it of his family eating popcorn.

“I found the sculpture that depicted his family eating popcorn extremely clever,” said Andrea Ortega ’15. “It seemed as if his goal for that sculpture was to show how such a simple food could bring his family together. It was really fascinating.”

“I especially liked the pieces that were inspired by or that incorporated his daughter,” said Joo. “I think I liked them because I could sense he was sincerely fascinated with the dynamics of family relationships, as well as just purely being in love with his young daughter and wife.”

DeCaen also worked with students in advanced art classes on a project in which the students were given a simple model of a lunch tray and then directed to fold it into any figure that in no way resembled an ordinary lunch tray.

“Andrew wanted to explore food and how what we eat and how we eat becomes something about us in our lives,” said Fu. “We helped build trays, but each tray was different, and each was folded and twisted so that it was distorted and imperfect.”