Technology allows us to exchange pictures of our caloric intake with the rest of the world with a few clicks, swipes, and use of a snazzy filter. Specifically, in San Francisco, a cosmopolitan place brimming with an incredibly diverse population, it’s relatively easy to experience food from a seemingly vast array of cultures. Whatever you want, San Francisco probably has a place or a person that could lead your nose and taste buds to something that will satiate you. Art offers a very similar experience. With our collective compulsive nature to share photos of things we can’t even taste or smell speaks to our collective desire to be connected. While food nourishes us, it also activates our creativity. Cooking and eating is a way to let others into the particulars of what we allow into our bodies. What happens when food is used to describe the relationships we have with ourselves, our history, culture, or our ethnicity? What happens when food becomes the medium of an artwork? Or when it goes beyond the sense of sight and envelopes you in a completely multi-sensory experience? Food provides us with a lot of information about who and what we are. Think about an ornately covered wall dusted in nothing but curry. Imagine a room filled with the aromatic smell of cinnamon. Contemplate the use of ice cream and edible inkjet prints. This makes up only a fraction of the artwork created by Bay Area installation artist, Sita Bhaumik.
As an artist, writer, and educator, Bhaumik does an extraordinary job at explaining the intricacies and constructs around weighty topics such as identity, culture, gender, and ethnicity, yet in such a whimsical, dynamic, and sometimes comical way. She manages to showcase her extreme wit and intelligence and makes history, cultural observations, and art digestible (pun intended). As a writer and scholar, Bhaumik re-invents the way in which we react to and contemplate food. She mentions in her writing, “Whether we’re in front of the television or at a museum, we arrive with tummies rumbling, ready to consume. On the one hand, food is a necessity. On the other, food is a luxury, trend, marketing opportunity, movement, and social-justice issue”. As much as food is a necessity, there are varying levels of accessibility and openness to scents and tastes that appear unfamiliar. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder on paper are only some of the ingredients Bhaumik uses to communicate something deeper about thought processes and perceptions of ourselves and others. Her work investigates and serves as a brilliant metaphor for the way in which we encounter someone outside of ourselves. Not only is her work elegant and meticulously done, it is an ingenious way to have people foster a different relationship with food as well.
With the wide array of fusion foods and cuisines that make up the Bay Area, it certainly is a place for the creative intellectuals to whet the community’s appetite with innovative ways of seeing and experiencing art. Bhaumik’s workis certainly a testament to the creativity and the diverse art practices found in San Francisco. As we enter into the Fall months, Bhaumik already has her schedule filled with events and a residency! She will be participating on a Scholar’s panel entitled, Food in Focus: Asian and Latin American Cross-Cultural Cooking, for the Asian Culinary Forum. As the upcoming Bathroom Resident at 18 Reasons, Bhaumik’s inaugural show for the residency will open in October. Her work is certainly an experience. So, the next time you consider playing with your food, you want to think what Bhaumik may do given those same ingredients.
To learn more about artist Sita Bhaumik, visit her website here
Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine + Gallery site, please view here