Toward the end of a lively discussion that spanned school lunches, GMOs and the terminal “freshness” of Hostess cupcakes, Fullness Organic Farm founder Grant Guidroz delivered my favorite comment of the day.
“I’m not looking ‘up’ for the solution,” said Guidroz, about undoing the legacy of America’s agriculture policies, which benefit mega-farms and have contributed to obesity. Instead, he believes it will come from a growing number of grass-roots consumers who, one by one, are shifting the way they think about food.
Guidroz, whose sells nutrient dense organic produce with his wife and business partner, Allison, at the Red Stick Farmers Market and through Indie Plate, was one of six panelists who participated in the Baton Rouge Gallery’s ARTiculate event this past Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm, which I moderated. The others included Slow Food Baton Rouge co-founder and LSU professor of horticulture Carl Motsenbocker, City Pork corporate chef Ryan Andre and artists Frankie Gould, Ross Jahnke and David Scott Smith, three of the four artists whose works comprise a new exhibition at the gallery called “Before the Fork,” which examines what we eat and how it impacts us. Artist Diane Hanson is also part of the show.
During the panel discussion, the artists shared their points of view in creating paintings and sculpture that explore a range of perspectives about food systems. Smith, who grew up on a farm in eastern Washington, drew from his disillusionment with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by creating a collection of three-dimensional creatures-gone-wrong, their bodies grafted with mass-produced foods like chicken wings and corn. Gould’s works presented bold, hopeful presentations of Louisiana agricultural commodities, including edamame, sugar cane, peppers, chickens and others. And Jahnke’s works examined popular foods like burgers, fries and fortune cookies, items so commonly consumed they’ve become iconographic.
This was no dry gallery discussion. Jahnke, despite having an ample garden and backyard chickens, confessed to routine gas station breakfasts, and acknowledged the difficulty of wanting to eat well while being a time-strapped married father of three. Carl Motsenbocker talked about the importance of changing the food system by empowering more individuals to grow and farm in their own communities, and not getting lost in the policy weeds. Chef Ryan Andre talked about the gravity of letting fine, local ingredients shine, knowing how hard they are to produce. He also mentioned the honest challenge of wanting to source local, but needing to keep costs in line with patrons’ expectations.
“Before the Fork” gives us fresh ways to think about food systems, and it reflects a growing movement to examine intersections between food and art. The exhibition is open until May 26 and is free during gallery hours. For more information, www.batonrougegallery.org.