“These are the pictures of our insatiable appetites; they are the pictures of the consequences.”
Pamela Johnson brings “a sort of dignity to the objects of our lazy desire by creating still life situations where our role as abusers is evident.” Says Johnson in her online biography: “Through my work, I strive to invoke reflection on a culture focused on mass-consumption and mass-production, where the negative aspects of overindulgence are often forgotten or ignored.” Moonlighting as an artist specializing in ceramics, Johnson left her position as an engineer to pursue the arts full time. Her food art highlights American mass consumption, mass production, waste, gluttony, and instant gratification.
Johnson’s pieces throw American values back in our faces. The food depicted is quick, easy to make, easy to consume, easily thrown away. “The work questions a culture that equates fulfillment, pleasure and happiness with what we consume” says Johnson. Darkened backgrounds and simplicity of subjects- hastily torn Kool-Aid packages, a lone abandoned Starbuck’s travel cup- enhance the message of instant gratification.
Series I by Johnson depicts over-sized, overstuffed processed foods using oil on canvas. The view is up close and too personal, for we see the height of our excess as larger than life- literally. Each painting stands 5 to 6 feet high. Towering stacks of pancakes loom over the viewer, raining with sticky syrup.Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches stand more like skyscrapers than a brown-bagged lunch. Floors of hamburgers ascend and ascend into the blackness of her works, appearing as if they have no end, or slump over, as if a lost city in ruins. It is a reflection, that we have bitten off more than we can chew, like Johnson’s depiction of Samoa Girl Scout cookies.
Series II emphasizes the themes of haste and abandonment. A solitary Cup of Noodles lays on its side, dregs of noodles spilling out of its half torn top like an abandoned murder victim. Tributaries of spilled milk lead to a trail of half eaten Oreos and plastic packaging, appearing as if it got caught with its pants down. Much of the food in Series II appears beat up, tossed, and forgotten, mirroring our value of what is instant, fleeting- disposable.
Artist: Pamela Michelle Johnson