Niagara Gazette

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August 1, 2013

Castellani exhibit highlights cultural uses of food

Niagara Gazette — The biggest challenge of putting together an art exhibit about food is — well — the fact that it’s food.

Carrie Hertz, the curator of folk arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, said she was unusually worried about the possibility of flies being among the visitors to the museum’s latest show, “(Almost) Too Good to Eat: Marking Life Transitions with Food,” which is being paired with a photography exhibit by Lukia Costello called “Newcomers: Transitions to New Lives.”

Don’t worry, they’ve got the fly situation under wraps by making use of plexiglass compartments to cover anything that might be considered appealing to the wrong kind of guests.

”This has been the hardest part of the show ... figuring out how to make these things that aren’t meant to be on long-term display be on view,” she said while standing before large photographs from a Bhutanese wedding, complete with a banana with a coin shoved into it.

The exhibit features a variety of foods and the way they’re used uniquely across cultures. 

In an exhibit on the Jewish Passover Seder, the traditional plate and a box of matza is on view. Highly perishable items — like the Bhutanese banana — are displayed through photographs alone.

Hertz said she was inspired to put together the exhibit after doing research for a separate purpose on the bridal clothes from different cultures. She said she attended many different types of weddings and noticed the interesting way in which food played a cultural or religious significance.

Speaking of the Bhutanese Hindu wedding — which featured a refugee couple living in Western New York — she explained how it takes all day to prepare the food, which is then integral to the ceremony. For instance, a bright red paste is made of up rice — a significant, staple food in much of Asia — yogurt and vermillion powder. The paste is then applied to the foreheads of the bride and groom by the guests until by the end of the ceremony, their foreheads are caked in the vibrant mixture.

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