Love it or hate it, everyone goes grocery shopping. That’s why Emily Stamey, the new curator at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, felt that grocery shopping had all the ingredients of an interesting exhibit — one that offered a lighthearted look at an everyday task while also providing touch points for deeper social and economic issues.
Stamey has been compiling “Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles” for the last few years. The exhibit includes two original Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup prints (c. 1969) along with other contemporary artwork utilizing fruit stickers, bar codes, the pantone colors of M&Ms, and the oft discarded shopping list as food for thought.
The exhibit debuted in January in Wichita, Kansas. It comes to Scottsdale this week, where it will be on display May 25 through September 1.
Stamey took a few minutes to chat with the Tribune about her exhibit and why she feels it is so relatable.
Q: What inspired you to create “Stocked”?
A: As an art historian, my focus through graduate school was pop art, and in large part historic pop art from the ’60s. A lot of those artists did work on food ... it’s when Coke and Pepsi really took off and when Kellogg’s and Del Monte became big and powerful. Personally, I was reading lots of books about food production; I’m a foodie and I became interested in where food came from and I realized all these contemporary artists were looking at this same issue. Some of the art pays direct homage to Warhol. I thought how interesting to do a show almost a half century since Warhol, looking at what art about food and grocery shopping says now.
Q: Elements of the exhibit range from milk bottles arranged on a shelf to a collection of framed bar codes to a giant grocery sack. Is it too esoteric for the common museum-goer or do people find elements they connect with?
A: That was one of the most heart-warming things about the opening in Wichita: people would come up to me throughout the evening and tell me about a piece of art that reminded them of when they were a grocery bagger, or when they had to find their receipt to return an item. Also, every piece is accompanied by a full explanation on the wall, to help people understand it.
Q: What’s your favorite element of the exhibit?
A: It’s like a mom with her kids ... all the pieces work so well together and they get people talking. It’s a combination of lighthearted and serious. (Some of the things are) really funny but they offer a starting point for talking about social issues. It’s fun and lets us talk about things that are important. I like that it has that balance.
Q: This sounds like an exhibit families might enjoy. Are there any hands-on elements or elements that would appeal to children?
A: There aren’t in the gallery proper, but there will be some activities in the SMoCA lounge — an iPad kiosk and a family night on June 27 called “In the Mood for Food.” It’s themed off of this exhibition. There is also a spoken word workshop for teens with Phonetic Spit on July 20 called “Stocked: A Creative Expression and Spoken Word Workshop for Teens.”
Q: What do you hope people take away from “Stocked”?
A: I want them to know that this is a show with which everyone can relate. You can be shopping at an AJ’s for fancy cheeses or shopping with food stamps to feed your family, but there’s a common denominator. The artists are looking at what we buy, how we buy it and the people we meet or interact with in the process of buying ... so it’s a very diverse aspect of something we do a lot. We don’t think about how interesting grocery shopping is — there’s economics, health and nutrition, and there’s people in the grocery store. I can’t think of someone who wouldn’t find a spark of personal connection because everyone grocery shops.
IF YOU GO
What: Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles
When: Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 25, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 26, Tuesday, May 28 and Wednesday, May 29. Grand Opening celebration is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, May 31.
Where: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. 2nd St.
Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for students, free for children 15 and younger and museum members; $1 discount available with the donation of a non-perishable food item; general admission is free every Thursday and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Information: (480) 874-4666 or www.smoca.org.
Contact writer: (480) 898-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org