Read online: Feasts of Fantasy: The Cruel Pleasures of Lori Larusso's Paintings, Miriam Kienle, 2019, Under-Main.com.
Lori Larusso's Eating Animals demonstrates playful and imaginative subject matter. The series presents an array of animal-shaped foods, served for the viewer's pleasure. Among these subjects, Larusso portrays bananas cut as dolphins, broccoli shaped poodles, deviled eggs as chicks, kiwis and grapes as turtles, along with many others. Perhaps the most significant aspect of Larusso's work is her ability to integrate fun and amusement. The simplicity of mundane, everyday food is transformed into a childlike activity, rearranging and "playing with" food. Larusso's creation of animals from food is an imaginative and original thought within itself; Typically considered behavior of that of a child, as we grow into adults we are taught not to play with our food. "Why not?" Larusso considers in her series. Larusso not only transforms food into animals, she transforms the notion that playing with our food becomes its own art form. It is also a playful commentary on contemporary cuisine—where the only ‘animals' eaten without health, moral, or social issues are those comprised of vegan elements.
Larusso's lighthearted use of color, shape, shadow, and plane also speak to the impact of her work. With acrylic on shaped panels, Larusso uses pale blues, pastel pinks, and subdued yet opaque yellows and grays throughout her series. Unlike her previous 2011 exhibition It's Not My Birthday where her use of color was pop art bright, Eating Animals explores a more minimalistic approach to color and shape. Hints of vibrant color are added to an entirely white background. Larusso's use of graphic shadow is therefore all the more apparent, providing an illustrative quality to her work. The plates of food are positioned directly in front and slightly below the eye line of the viewer, as if Larusso has served us these imaginative works for our viewing pleasure. Eating Animals encourages viewers to notice the unexpected, or perhaps accidental ways certain objects have the ability to become art form.
The flat image lends itself to the intentionality of mark making. Representations of generic and stereotypical middle-America remind us of the culture we maintain on a daily basis through our every action. I am interested in exploring the unavoidable contradictions which exist in our personal (and collective) systems of belief, by pointing to the complexity of individual situations. Very often, our ideals are a reflection of the way we wish things were, rather than a product of the way we actually experience them. I find this conflict to be in direct connection to the representational image.
Interior spaces and manicured semi-private outdoor spaces suggest a relative level of comfort and social acceptance. Confidently defined, the architecture represented here sometimes confirms and sometimes questions the stability of the situation. The commonality of the image is encouraged by the absence of personal information. It might be more or less relate-able to the viewer's experience, either way, the viewer can connect common themes throughout. For this work, I utilize both acquired and invented imagery. No image is without reference.
In one series of paintings, the edge of the painted image defines the edge of the actual support. This body of work includes only the necessary information needed to complete the idea and composition, leaving out any unnecessary or extra space.
Pieces that depict isolated food imagery question consumption both on commercial and personal levels. These representations adhere to the idea of fanciful prepared food as excessive and pertaining to the leisure class, yet immediate and necessary. Presented without mystery, the food item and surrounding utensils are always the main focus of these works. The opacity of the gloss-enameled ground leaves no hint as to the setting of the edibles. The unquestionable focus is the food, prepared and served. This points to frivolousness and escapism on a very basic and consumable level.