Looking at Art and Thinking About Dinner

By Kennedy Rooke

Chloe Wise’s third solo exhibition at Galerie Division ended last weekend. “Cats Not Fighting is a Horrible Sound as Well” is a collection of portraits, drawings, sculptures, and a video installation. Wise is a 26(!) year old artist originally from Montreal, living in New York. If you know her work, you know she works with food: plastic food, that is. Maybe you have heard of her Bread Bags, in which she transforms different types of bread into designer purses, or her Irregular Tampons, in which she invents new luxury tampons for everyone’s aesthetic. 

 In this exhibition the food is mostly Italian items you might find in an Olive Garden (or East Side Mario’s). She pairs this kind of mass-produced restaurant chain food with a recreation of an Italian cantina, a space for curing meats and cheeses. Hanging from the rafters are pieces of romaine lettuce dripping in Caesar dressing, mozzarella sticks oozing out on risers and massive heaps of lasagna sitting on pedestals. 

 Wise examines the lines between the artificial and the real in her incredibly lifelike recreations of food. She uses food, something so central to all of our lives, to interact with the always-encroaching mass consumerism. She also uses the food as a means to think about the female body and the shared senses of lust attached to them. The food we see in this exhibition is smothered in sauce and cheese, pasta lies in heaps throughout the cantina. They are sites of excess, representing at the same time a desire for excess in both the food we order in restaurants, and in the female body. I liked thinking about these themes as I walked through the exhibition; I also just liked staring at food. 

Wise includes a video installation as the second part of her show. The video, Feral and Wide-Eyed in the Garden, takes place in a makeshift Eden-type set, with the subjects dressed in nude leotards. They pose for the camera in various awkward positions, reciting seemingly arbitrary lines in monotone voices as ambient music plays in the background. The whole thing has the look and feel of a low-budget late night commercial from the 90’s, or maybe a campy high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that’s trying really hard to be unique and deep. This video was my favourite part; the forceful awkwardness of the whole thing was subtly hilarious rather than uncomfortable. Watching someone stare directly into the camera while the words “I have never had fun in my life” on the bottom of the screen felt ridiculous and also very real. 

 I first came across Wise years ago as a Rookie Mag contributor. I visited her website and read about her work, but she fell out of my mind for a while. I recently rediscovered her through Instagram’s discover page; I was entranced by photos of her hyper-realistic food creations. Something about it being so close to real, but not quite there, drew me in. I recommend checking out her Instagram if you have a chance (and you do, let’s be honest we’re all always on our phones, if you aren’t, please step off of your high horse and join the rest of us). She is a very funny person and it’s cool to get to see what the food looks like before it’s finished. I look forward to seeing what she does next. The exhibition was great, and really I’m just happy that I got to go to an ~art~ gallery and look at mozzarella sticks.  

I like this painting because she’s holding garlic which makes me think maybe she’s warding off vampires and also I want to wear that outfit everyday of my life.

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