It’s really not surprising I ended up at Mark Menjivar’s food-studies-driven photography exhibition “You Are What You Eat,” showcasing portraits of strangers’ refrigerator at 0.00156 acres gallery. I am usually lured by art projects with an extensive backstory. Besides that, I am one of those people who frequently boasts about how much I love food. Artist Mark Menjivar, with a background in social work and hunger studies, spent three years traveling and exploring food issues throughout the U.S. During his travels, he met a host of people and listened to stories about the way food shapes lives, as individuals and communities. He began photographing the unaltered refrigerator contents of the people he met. Since then Mark Menjivar’s unique portraiture of refrigerators has been featured in 15 cities and over 20 magazines around the world. I headed over to the quaint Brooklyn gallery to see for myself.
Will You Pose Nude For Me?
The 0.00156 acres gallery is situated inside a small antique store filled with vintage porcelain teacups and collected knickknacks. Once inside the store, visitors must walk through a doorway that I could not help but compare to a refrigerator door, in order to view the abridged selection of large prints from Menjivar’s photography project. Each photograph of a refrigerator interior is accompanied by a brief biographic description of the refrigerator’s owners. One particular standout features floor-to-ceiling stacks of styrofoam takeout boxes, which belongs to a San Antonio bartender who lives alone and “goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily.” Menjivar states that each refrigerator was photographed “as is” with nothing added or taken away. There is a sense of personality and narrative to each portrait of a refrigerator, whether it contains farmer’s market organic greens or stacks of buck meat stored in zip lock bags.
Menjivar explains that asking a stranger to open up their fridge was akin to asking them to pose nude. As expected, some of these refrigerators belong to model eaters—those of proudly health-conscious types, with the shelves stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables of each color spectrum. But of course, other fridges reveal the extra bit of cellulite we try to hide—a host of prepackaged grocery store finds, undated leftovers, and plastic tubs of something creamy.
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