Yes, But So Much More
warned: If you’re planning to view the exhibition
titled “Luscious” in the
Smith College Museum of Art, don’t go in hungry.
The series of paintings by Emily
Eveleth ’83 depicts, at its most obvious, doughnuts—sweet-glazed, plump, puffy,
jelly-filled pastries—the kind that explode upon the taste sensors with sugary
ooze when chomped.
Excerpts from "Luscious"
"Questionable Ambition" (2002). Oil on canvas.
"Shift." Oil on canvas.
“Luscious,” in the museum’s
Sacerdote Gallery through October 24, is one in a series
of exhibitions titled Table for
Ten: The Art, Science and History of Food organized
a partnership among regional museums and galleries, including
the Smith College Museum of Art.
Though its subject is doughnuts,
a further, closer inspection of Eveleth’s luscious paintings
reveals just how versatile and broad a subject these confections
can be for the right artist. The hunger pangs triggered upon
entering the gallery fade as other subtleties in the works
What appears as doughnuts from
a distance becomes abstract—a swath of
impressionistic brush strokes—close up. Eveleth’s shapes
meld into different forms, suggesting activity and vulnerability,
wholly removed from sweet dessert. Sexuality, violence, emotion
and mystery erupt from the over-sized canvases.
human bodies, for example, can be interpreted in a piece
All,” and a painting called “Shelter” could be a depiction
of maternal protection. A work titled “Pact” features four
double-decked doughnuts ganged together, crimson goo spilling
from the gaping wound where jelly was inserted. “Twist” offers
a large, invasive view of the jelly filling hole, to the
point of discomfort—should
I be staring at this?.
It’s not only the range of interpretation
that lends Eveleth’s
paintings their transcendental intrigue. Her brush strokes
are lavish and, well, luscious, layered on like copious spreads
of icing, gleaming with a frosted sheen in the precise museum
Eveleth’s background colors, too—delicious mixtures
of olive, sand, brooding purples, penetrating turquoises,
the midnightest of blues—are themselves worthy of study.
These colors do not come from a tube, but are achieved through
meticulous layers and combinations of primaries and supporting
You leave “Luscious” not craving pastry, but having
considered an array of human experience—perhaps the objective
of all art, regardless of its theme or subject.
look at “Luscious” may reveal nothing more than doughnuts,
and in that context this series provides its own satisfaction—enjoyment
of unhealthy cuisine without the guilt. But a longer, closer
examination reveals so much more.
Georgia O’Keeffe famously
turned flowers and other natural objects into fodder for
suggestions of other subjects in her art. With her paintings
of doughnuts, Eveleth has accomplished a similar transfer.
By doing so, “Luscious” suggests
the question, Can any artistic object, when treated particularly,
represent aspects of the human condition?