Exhibition Paper (Jenna Speare)

Jenna Speare

ARTH 3539

25 April 2012


Gallery/ Exhibit Review

BMoCA presents: Viviane Le Courtois’ Edible?

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts is currently showcasing an artist who has been working with food as a source of inspiration and has been creating process based and conceptual installations since 1989. Her work is inspired by her surroundings and consumer culture wherever she lives or travels. She constantly uses found material or food for her artwork and continues to do so even 20 years later. She received her Masters in sculpture and installation from the School of Art and Research in Nice, France, and after extensive travels in Asia, she moved to the US and worked towards her MA in Art History from the University of Denver, where she received her diploma in 2000. Since then she has been featured in various museums and galleries around the world and works today as a curator, a teacher, and an artist. We are lucky to have a variety of her work here in Boulder at the BMoCA.

The exhibition comprises a mid-career retrospective of food-related work of the past twenty-two years along side a newly commissioned interactive installation, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Courtois explores the process of consumption by focusing on repetitive aspects of food through preparation, offerings, and the social implications of eating. In her statement she claims the following, “Many of my works indirectly criticize global contemporary society including wastefulness, environmental negligence, digital invasion, pharmaceutical foods or lack of observation. Addictions, collections or obsessive attachments to useless things such as food residues, single socks, empty pickle jars, junk food, weeds, plastic bags or junk mail fascinate me. In recent projects with weed roots, dryer lint and single socks, I collect useless objects from my Facebook friends to refer to changes of priorities in contemporary society. Collaborations and interactions with others are an essential part of the process.”

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a living interactive installation created for BMoCA is a space created for people to relax. The floor is covered in rugs made from recycled t-shorts from friends and companions. Arranged with these rugs are growing herbs such as mint, verbena, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Arranged throughout the gallery in miniature gardens, the herbs are intended for individuals to pick for themselves. The artist has also provided hand-made ceramic cups so that guests can make tea with herbs that they’ve picked. The room is also surrounded by sketches of live yerba matte, to show the different growth patterns in this living organism.

Throughout the course of the exhibition, the artist revisits the living installation to tend to the plants, serve tea to guests and offer samples of sprouts, micro greens, and baby greens grown inside the museum. Her work continues throughout the remainder of the exhibit, and revisits past food-related work. She often spends her time using one kind of food to create a large sculpture. Shane, 2006, for example is a larger sculpture made entirely out of marshmallows, paper mache, wire mesh, and glue. It outlines the form of a larger man and touched on issues of the massive consumption of food in today’s world

Similar pieces that share this same aesthetic are Venus of Consumption, a sculpture made of acrylic yarn, stuffing and silicone, and Little Fat Kids, a series of smaller sculptures made of melted cast candy. Both are altered images of what seems to be a larger male. They are obese and in a way grotesque, and a perfect way of representing just how much we consume in our present society.


Le Courtois has completed other pieces of work that touch on the size of things. Inside of the BMoCA gallery was a video installation of the artist peeling potatoes, all the shavings were placed immediately below it on the floor. My favorite piece, however, was a piece that showcased consumption in a different manner. Flat against one wall was a tall shelf filled with various jars of objects. The artist had titled it, Pickles, and described it as a memory of her mother who liked to save everything and kept a cabinet full of empty pickle jars with only vinegar left. The shelf in her piece was massive and lit by a single light underneath, and the jars were filled rather than being just vinegar. The jars contained a variety of objects and liquids such as food, trinkets, toys, and even smaller sculptures of her own.

            I find Viviane Le Courtois’ work to have much deeper meaning and incentive than many other contemporary artists I’ve seen. Rather than just addressing an issue, such as consumption, she really puts in the time and extra thought to make sure that “consumption” becomes her actual work. Her pieces are made up of mass amounts of a single object, or of a variety of various objects that she has found wasted by others. Collecting is a big part of her works and recycling as well. As she mentioned in her statement, Collaborations and Interactions with others is a big part of her work. In simpler terms, she is accessing the “carpool” or creative process, brainstorming ideas so that making a larger work of art can involve the ideas of many and touch on a variety of issues, rather than creating one thing per idea and for each individual who had that initial idea. While a section of the exhibition is a retrospective of her last work, the interactive installation in the front of the gallery, Garden of Earthly Delights, is a collaboration with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts and is a site-specific installation. It is a piece which Courtois and the BMoCA can call their own, recycled and shared, and highly influential to Boulder’s “green” society.

Viviane Le Courtois uses her talent as a sculptor who address current issues that could change our world. She is an artist and an activist, working for a greater cause.

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