July 2008, Lisa Beckner's Baked Goods

 Lisa Beckner, ULRICA
 Brown sugar, cornmeal, burlap and chicken wire; baked and fixed.
 15" x 11" x 10", 38cm x 27cm x 25cm
 courtesy Raandesk Gallery

Lisa Beckner
Baked Goods
Gallery Bar and Raandesk Gallery
Through July 14, 2008

Sweets have always been my weakness ever since I was a small child. I always kept an emergency bag of Skittles in my backpack in case I suffered a serious sugar attack, and especially loved to sink my teeth into cookies and cakes fresh out of the oven. Until the opening of Baked Goods, I did not think of art when I tore the wrapper off a piece of candy or carved my fork down a slice of cake. My only thoughts were of the sugary goodness that would fill my flavor palette, glide down my throat, and ultimately land on my thighs. Artist Lisa Beckner totally burned another impression of sweets in my brain with her new exhibit at the Gallery Bar.

Baked Goods is a clever collaboration between the Gallery Bar, located in New York’s famed East Village, and Raandesk Gallery, a virtually based gallery launched by Jessica L. Porter. The exhibit was the first three-dimensional exhibit held at the Gallery Bar. When walking into this chic space my eye instantly focused on Lisa’s unique small figures adorning the walls. Lisa calls them her children. Each is dressed in a distinctive outfit and has a name adding personality to their bodiless frames. The design of the fashions had an old world aesthetic and with names like Bart, Ulrica, Peter, Claudia, and Klaus, reminded me of the Hans Christen Anderson stories I read as a youngster.

 Lisa Beckner, BARBARA, 2008
 Brown sugar, corn starch, Kool-Aid and cinnamon
 22" x 15" x 8"
 courtesy Raandesk Gallery

Looking closely at each child-like figure, I respected even more the time it took to create each one of these kids. Lisa fuses burlap, chicken wire, and cooking ingredients such as brown and white sugar, cornmeal, cinnamon, cornstarch, and even Kool Aid to concoct an innovative medium for producing her sculptures. The figures are baked creating capricious children in highly constructed garments. I also appreciated the rich texture that the baking ingredients added as well as the watercolor-like pigment the Kool Aid gave to the clothes.

Although “Lisa’s kids” were an immediate hit, two pieces stood out to me like a pimple. Plastic Hands, located behind the bar, and Syringes, located on the back wall, were two pieces that seemed out of place with Lisa Beckner’s “little people.” Plastic Hands was constructed out of candy wrappers, and the three-dimensional aspects of the piece made me feel as if the hands were going to reach out and grab me. Syringes is fabricated from nothing but needles. Six sculptures complete the piece. Hating needles, as most people do, I found it to be the most eerie piece in the entire exhibit and along with Plastic Hands brought a dark element to an otherwise light-hearted display.

 Lisa Beckner, PETER
 Corn starch, brown sugar and Kool-Aid--baked and fixed
 27" x 17" x 7", 68.6 x 43.2 x 17.8 cm
 courtesy Raandesk Gallery

Upon speaking with Jessica Porter of Raandesk Gallery, I discovered the inspiration for what I thought to be the most somber pieces of the exhibit. Syringes are part of the artist’s daily life as she is diabetic, and suddenly it all clicked. The hands made of plastic candy wrappers and the batter Lisa mixes to create her children are all forbidden ingredients or foods for diabetics, and are culprits in the increasing battle of the bulge that we face in America. Even the children themselves now presented me with a new view when looking at them. As a child, I never watched what I ate and consumed candy and the ingredients in Lisa’s batter as if they held the secrets to eternal youth. As an adult I am conscious of the calories I take in and now look at white and brown sugar, cinnamon, Kool Aid, and cornstarch to be the components to make some of the most sinfully scrumptious creations as well as free tickets to obesity and poor health. “Lisa’s kids” are created with everything we are not supposed to have.

As I took my last stroll in Lisa’s “Candy Land”, I was so tempted to touch the one of her kids just to feel their crusty surface. I was reminded by something I said to myself the last time I looked at fruit tarts, cookies, and cakes displayed in a bakery window, “Look, but don’t touch.” While I decided not to touch the art as I was leaving, I did decide to touch the tasty chocolate chip cookies served during the opening reception. Baked Goods will be cooking on display at the Gallery Bar from June 18 to July 14 2008.

Afrika Brown

Afrika Brown is a published poet and freelance writer in New York City.


view all articles from this author