In 2008, Rubi McGrory was a fibers graduate student at Savannah College of Art and Design, planning her thesis on how food is packaged and sold. In the name of research, she ended up with a McDonald’s cheeseburger and a Twinkie in hand. With the addition of rhinestones and lace, McGrory’s decorated food pieces became a bedazzled artistic statement on the culture of fast food, and proved a fine compliment to her main body of work: a collection of embroidered interpretations of product packaging from around the world. After graduation, McGrory put the textiles on display and stashed the cheeseburger and Twinkie in a cabinet, only revisiting them once a year to snap a photo. Amazingly, the food art has remained in pristine condition.
Now a decade later, McGrory’s work has inspired Fast Food, an exhibition at Location Gallery, where that same cheeseburger and Twinkie will be showcased along with new works by local artists Angela Burson, Lennie Ciliento, Bailey Davidson, Meredith Gray, Peter Roberts, David Laughlin, Lisa D. Watson and Jason Zimmer. The theme: the permanence of junk food in pop culture.
“It’s fun to get an oil painter to consider a cheeseburger as a fine art composition,” says Peter Roberts, Location Gallery’s director and curator. “It’s layered and nuanced, with drawings, paintings, photography. We’ve got pieces that people are going to say, ‘What is this?’ And that’s the point.”
Based inside Austin Hill Realty, Location Gallery is the real estate firm’s vehicle for philanthropic outreach, raising more than $100,000 for local nonprofits in the last two years to benefit grassroots organizations including First City Network and the Savannah Book Festival. For Fast Food, the benefaciary is the Forsyth Farmers’ Market and its Farm Truck 912, a food truck serving Savannah neighborhoods where residents have little access to fresh produce due to income and transportation barriers.
“It’s ironic that junk food and what it stands for will end up benefiting the natural food movement,” adds Roberts. “That’s the most important part of the show.”