Many of us do not think of the culinary arts when someone mentions creativity. Instead, our minds envision painters, musicians, dancers, etc. But in reality, cooking can be very innovative.
Working in the culinary arts requires a solid vision and artistic plan. A cook aims to match a dish’s visual aesthetic and taste together. Every element and flavor added should complement each other. This melody of ingredients means cooking and eating a well-prepared dish is worth revering. The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) makes this evident in their online exhibition RECLAMATION: Recipes, Remedies, and Rituals.
For generations, cooking was seen as only a woman’s work. Instead of viewing food preparation as a pursuit of personal passion, it was rooted in gender norms as only responsibility or duty. Cooking was simply part of taking care of the home. However, as the name RECLAMATION suggests, the NMWA brings the feminine power in food preparation to the surface. The act is something to be enjoyed, reveled in, and admired like any other art form.
RECLAMATION shows how women in culinary arts connect with their food, themselves, and other generations within their culture or family. Nine artists showcase who they are and where they come from through their meal prep and cooking style.
Melani N. Douglass (Curator)
Artist Sharayna Christmas displays another recurring theme in the exhibit; the importance of community and how it draws people closer and helps others bond. Her submission shows photos of her preparing the food for loved ones, along with a time-lapsed video of her eating and bonding with them at the dinner table.
RECLAMATION speaks to all women, but especially women of color. Many people that are second-generation Americans or live in a culture that’s different from their own usually use food to stay grounded and connected to where they are from.
Conceived as a virtual experience, RECLAMATION also features content submitted by the public, interwoven with the artists’ work. Through a digital ingredient archive, developed in partnership with the Family Arts Museum and Ten-Fifteen Media, online visitors share recipes, anecdotes, photos and reflections related to food.
Submissions from the public were layered with the artists’ work, creating a dynamic portal for exploring the interconnectedness of food and the communal nature of nourishing and curing the body. In this way, artists and viewers use those materials to honor women’s roles in food practices and traditions.
The exhibition also features interviews and content from the Curative Collective, a group of partners that focus on food—from advocacy and social justice work to healing and restorative self-care. These organizations help ensure that the exhibition reflects and serves their communities while sharing their arts and social change resources with NMWA’s audience. Examples of Curative Collective organizations are Black Magick Sisters, Dreaming Out Loud, Mutual Aid Apothecary, and STRŌB Apothecary, among others.
There are multiple ways to be creative through culinary arts. If your girl is interested in cooking, visit this exhibit, look at the artists’ work together for inspiration, and then submit her favorite recipe.
Written by Latee’ Wilburn
Images and video provided by National Museum of Women in the Arts
Top image Title: 8 and Baking 02
Caption: Melani N. Douglass, 8 and Baking 02, 2021; Digital Photograph; Courtesy of the artist; © Melani N. Douglass
Second Image Title: At the Table
Caption: djassi daCosta johnson, johnson – Reclamation Collection – At the Table, 2020; Digital Photograph; Courtesy of the artist; © djassi daCosta johnson; Photo by David L McDuffie
Video: Sharayna Christmas
Third Image Title: Reclamation 40 (Traditional food Dress Up Night)
Caption: Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Reclamation 40 (Traditional food Dress Up Night), 2020; Digital Photograph; Courtesy of the artist; © Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz