Carb Load features Jennifer Coates' (BFA '95) recent series of food paintings in which each item is presented in a centrally focused composition, whether hovering in abstract space, on a plate, or wrapped in foil. The foods include nachos, bagels, slices of bread, s'mores, pasta, and popsicles, among other things.
Coates says of her work, "Painting everyday American foods in all their processed, synthetic, gooey glory provides an opportunity to explore the material potential of paint, as well as an opportunity to comment on the over-abundance of choices in the capitalist consumer economy and a sense of nostalgia about many of these foods, as they are affiliated with childhood memories and perhaps a more innocent period in American culture when the strange architecture of processed foods represented joy more than complicity in the degradation of the biosphere (not to mention the gut)."
In her work, a slice of bread becomes a stand-in for the canvas as the condiments become paintings within paintings. Abstract Expressionist styles are explored within a Pop Art context.
"When one prepares bread for eating, smearing goo on it with a knife, it does not just satisfy hunger," Coates says. "The act is replete with aesthetic decisions: How much of the bread will show through? In what proportion will different spreads interact?"
Sharon Butler at Two Coats of Paint says that Coates “vivifies extreme close-ups of ordinary but unhealthy food like corned beef sandwiches, mac 'n' cheese, and candy bars with expressive, endearingly awkward paint handling. ... Her work evokes our often irrepressible embrace of bad food: we eat it because it tastes so good, and then hate ourselves for doing so. Why does food have so much power over us?”