Jugs & Cans: The Art Gallery of Burlington exhibition is a conversation starter


I recently came across an art exhibit on food and women. Burlington Art Gallery (AGB) Hosts “Jugs and Cans: A Reaping” by Ivy Knight. A freelance writer who cooked in restaurants for 10 years, Knight’s work focuses on food, media and pop culture, and often the experience of women in the food and hospitality industry. . She is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Food & Wine, The Globe & Mail and Vice, interviewing many food leaders, including Anthony Bourdain and René Redzepi.

The exhibit grew out of Knight’s conversations with AGB’s senior curator, Suzanne Carte, on a larger gallery theme called “Tableware,” focusing on the idea that the first tool was more likely to be a container than a weapon. This prompted an examination of how ships speak of a “little-known story of women’s ingenuity and work”. Asked by Carte to create an exhibit, Knight resisted saying that she was not an artist, and yet the idea unfolded while she was visiting a food lecture series.

Ivy Knight at home with her colorful crochet cushions.Photo by Ksenija Hotic

Says Knight “I started collecting jugs and cans from chefs I met on the road. It fulfilled my obsession with the art of labels and the eerie beauty of everyday packaging of the non-perishable foods that surround us. Pandemic Blocks became a “slow cooker” exhibit resulting in a collection of objects with two overlays – the bright and shiny crochet embellishments of Knight and the voices of his colleagues.

Ideally, visit the gallery with a companion as the items will generate conversations. It is said that art communicates emotion and in this case adds memories. For example, if you are of a certain age, the Fluff Marshmallow container may trigger memories of a mother’s resistance to this product – seen in advertisements but never in the house where you might have made a fluffnutter sandwich. With over 100 jugs and cans you can talk about, you’ll leave knowing your companion better than when you arrived.

Marshmallow Fluff container by Montreal artist and former conservator Sarah Keenlyside.
Marshmallow Fluff container by Montreal artist and former conservator Sarah Keenlyside.Photo by Diane Galambos

The quirky and creative crochet coverings defy description and before they were coated, the women who gifted them shared thoughts – some of which are included in the exhibition booklet. They talked about the container itself, or the ingredient, the hospitality industry or deeper meditation. Knight said she wanted the quotes to be a mixture of voices tempering stories of abuse and harassment with stories of beauty and joy that come from the restaurant business.

Samira Mohyeddin, co-owner of Toronto’s Banu restaurant and host of CBC Radio’s “Unforked” podcast, brought a bottle of dhoog, a Middle Eastern drink. She reflected, “Just holding this little glass bottle brings me such absurd joy… a piece of home – a home I can’t return to.” “

Nostalgia is also on the mind of Kiki Aranita, owner of a restaurant in Philadelphia. “I also will not compromise on using 100% pure and pure canned SPAM… In Hawaii, where I grew up, it is considered an essential… It is there for me when I need to be transported. at home in one bite. “

Contribute to the box of Danisa Butter Cookies; Yvonne Tsui, a Toronto-based food writer, says: “Over the years, profiling chefs in a male-dominated industry, when asked who pushed them to cook, she’s always a big- mother, mother or aunt. They always quote a matriarchal figure that inspired them to hunt for food and then you look in their kitchens… WTF? Where are the women ?

Danisa Butter Cookies by Toronto food writer Yvonne Tsui;  Crushed tomatoes can be from Ottawa's chef Liberty Rivers.
Danisa Butter Cookies by Toronto food writer Yvonne Tsui; Crushed tomatoes can be from Ottawa’s chef Liberty Rivers.Photo by Stacey Newman

When women are there, the stories can be conflict. Ottawa chef Liberty Rivers, offered a can of crushed tomatoes and shared the story of a rude cooking encounter with the observation that “the sexualization of women in the restaurant industry is still a problem. “

Stacey Newman, editor of SUSTAIN magazine, shared a can of Habitant pea soup and said, “There is nothing more inspiring and devastating than interviewing women who work in the restaurant business. “

Even without such reflections, the juxtaposition of objects enclosed in crochet attracts attention. While some of the art is presented as disconnected from the everyday experience, the hook is certainly accessible to the point where visitors have had to be reminded not to pick up or handle the objects. You may wonder if crochet craft is an art and both Knight and Carte have something to say about it.

Over 100 containers in the Burlington <a class=Art Gallery exhibit.” width=”605″ height=”807″/>
Over 100 containers in the Burlington Art Gallery exhibit.Photo by Diane Galambos

Knight notes that the exhibit is aware of the devaluation of women’s craftsmanship and yet, as Carte says, the past few months have reminded us of what craftsmanship can do in times of crisis. They are a source of respite, energy for recovery, for healing and communication and there is no denying the artistry of Knight’s work.

Ivy Knight, the interviewer, became the interviewee, but one thing we didn’t talk about was her 10 years working as a cook. When asked if this was just a footnote in her story, she said, “Well if I hadn’t spent 10 years in the kitchen I wouldn’t be here. person that I am today. It gave me a lot of courage that I didn’t think I had before going into the kitchen. This is because it was like a decade of “going into battle”. It’s a fun and wild place, but also a spooky place when you’re the only woman.

Knight’s wish for gallery visitors? “I hope this collection of containers will make you nostalgic, make you smile, make you hungry and make you a little angry as you open your eyes to the magic, chaos and madness that is the reality of so much work. restoration. . “

The exhibition has been extended until January 22. The gallery is closed from December 24 to January 4.

Ivy knight




Burlington Art Gallery

1333 Lakeshore Road, Burlington




Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12 pmto 5 p.m. Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday & Monday Closed

What you will pay: Free

Wheelchair access: Yes

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