The University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum is showcasing a temporary exhibit that demonstrates the negative effects of processed foods in modern diets, titled “Last Supper.”
Over the next two weeks students will have the chance to experience the conceptual installation by C. Maxx Stevens.
The exhibit displays monotone-painted processed food placed on a large white table dusted with glitter to represent the commercialism and the addiction of sugar, Stevens said.
Stevens was inspired to make an effort to create dialogue around diabetes in her community and other communities as well, she said.
“Sitting in a diabetic healthcare (center) at the Seminole Indian Health Service Clinic with my mom, I picked up a pamphlet which stated, ‘1 in 6 Native Americans will develop diabetes,’’’ Stevens said. “I begin to think about how I could create more of an awareness of this disease without sounding like I am scolding people. I wanted this particular piece to have a sense of beauty, yet not covering up the effects of the disease, as it is a killer disease in more ways than one.”
Although the glittery pizza and cakes may be the first thing to catch the viewer’s eye, there is more beneath the table.
Below all of the food, the common effects of diabetes are also represented. White-painted prosthetic feet and walking canes are scattered beneath the table.
“On top of the table, you see food that can develop diabetes, and then below, you see the effect of the disease: amputation,” Stevens said.
When she was on a macrobiotic diet, processed food was referred to as “white death, referring to white flour, white sugar, white bread, white lard,” Stevens said. “Society has commercialized us into thinking that you want white bread, sugar, because these foods were good for us and enriched. Kind of a white-washing of food.”
“Economics has had a big effect on the dietary intake of many low-income families, not just indigenous people but also all people,” she said.
The glitter represents the commercialism and desire for these processed foods, Stevens said.
“When you really look at the misinterpretation of these products, such as putting oil on the food to make them shiny for photography, seeing the difference between (a) TV Big Mac and an actual Big Mac. Glitter represents that brainwashing, that commercialism,” she said.
The Maxwell Museum has also been hosting a Dakota Access Pipeline exhibit at the same time as Steven’s “Last Supper.”
“The voice of Native people is strong, and when I look at the DAPL exhibit and knowing how the land and water is survival for indigenous people, I see food is right there in surviving. I feel the main issue in both is voice and knowledge,” Stevens said.
The exhibit will continue to travel to other institutions.
“The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts purchased this piece and Art Matters has supported this piece so it can travel, so I basically am happy wherever the Museum wants to travel,” Stevens said.
Shayla Cunico is a culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ShaylaCunico.