Good Enough To Eat

Brooke Sauvage reviews “Condensed Milk” at Aquarium Gallery and Studios.

Detail of Sadie Sheldon, Sugar Ooze, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Aquarium Gallery and Studios.

“Condensed Milk”
Aquarium Gallery and Studios
934 Montegut Street
October 25–November 29, 2015

Aquarium Gallery founder and artist Jacob Reptile Martin recalls a summer spent “making a lot of pies and eating desserts, just decadently, in the studio” as the inspiration for the exhibition "Condensed Milk." The P.3+ satellite is both sugary sweet and titillatingly toxic as artists consider the fine line between satiation and all-out gorging.

Artist Sadie Sheldon sources tin cans—mostly from pizza sauce—which she then burns, repaints, and stitches together into sculptures and flat works. In Sugar Ooze, Sheldon weaves a pie out of cans that resembles an ashtray. Cascading curlicues waft downward—visualizing a syrupy stream, a fresh-baked smell, or even cigarette smoke depending on your view (or vice).

As a textile artist, Reptile Martin mines fashion’s established relationship to nostalgia, recycling well-worn silhouettes and incorporating childhood characters into his quilted landscapes. The Pokémon and Ninja Turtles that find their way into his pieces mostly come from thrifted bed sheets, which he then trims and rearranges into sewn narratives. In Sugar Hi, Oreos and milk tumble from puffy clouds over a fruited backdrop and into the hands of Charlie Brown and Winnie the Pooh, who beckon to the gods of baked goods over a chocolate-chip-cookie collage. If the imagery isn’t cloying enough to make his point, Martin has overstuffed the quilt-cum-sculpture.

Felici Asteinza and Joey Fillastre of Milagros Collective contribute individual works showcasing the duo’s signature pattern of simple dashes that strategically morph into a dancing network of charged particles; in this new context they look more like sprinkles. In Asteinza’s drawing, Cooper, a beloved dog is crowned with a celebratory halo of multicolored dashes and framed along the bottom with donuts and decorative flora. In her S.N.A.P. Judgment/Louisiana Purchase, donuts, cupcakes, cheeseburgers, and bacon are used instead to call attention to the state’s food stamp program, where what constitutes “wise” personal choices is frequently the topic of public debate.

"Condensed Milk" succeeds in allowing the Aquarium Gallery artists to run the gamut of feelings towards the sugary sweet ranging from sustenance to suicide. It may delight or repulse, but it's a good reminder that when it comes to treats—as in art—the most essential ingredient is a little restraint.