What if I didn’t have a human mother? What if I had a horse for a mother? What if I was nurtured inside of a horse? From there my mind always goes to the forbidden fruits of decadent desserts and confections and cakes that we don’t really allow ourselves to eat on the regular so, that’s how the inside the belly of a horse series came about, and after examining my relationship in particular with horses and also this entire bestiary of animals that are really important to me symbolically.
— Dana Sherwood, 2021
The conflation between food, women and sex has become almost commonplace. The commodification of both food and women produces a symbiotic relationship between the biological desire to consume food and the physical and psychological desire to consume women.
— J. Lawson, 2011
Denny Dimin Gallery is pleased to present The Cake Eaters, June 17 – August 12, 2022, a new body of work by multimedia artist Dana Sherwood. Through this exhibition, Sherwood continues her exploration into the social and mythological relationship between humans and animals using the concepts of feasting and consumption as the nodal point where we might find complicity as animals or difference as humans. In Sherwood’s watercolors, oil paintings, terracotta platters and pots; we find female figures, which allude to goddesses, hidden inside the bellies of different animals surrounded by cakes and confectionery. In all but one image, the figures are poised to partake in this solitary feast rather than captured consuming the food. Positioned in this liminal space, they give off an air of being carefree and decadent while simultaneously exuding notions of shame, isolation and hiding, as figures concealed inside a beast. These nude, hybrid-animalistic women, call to mind the ideas around the female role; to eat or be eaten and the discourse of societal control at large. Referring to this body of work, Sherwood is looking to question authority regarding the perceived ideas around decadence and indulgence. Who makes decisions around women’s bodies and the need to meet a certain ideal of acceptability, leads to wider thoughts questioning the dominant voices in gender equality and social justice. She states that “we need to be nurtured inside of animals’ bodies, precisely because we are not nurtured otherwise in Western society”.
In The Cake Eaters Sherwood also looks to subvert the notions of hiding, suggesting that the systems of control and oppression are so pervasive that they are unnoticeable, that they are hiding in plain sight. In her work, she raises the question of how we call on food and our association with what, and how we eat, to challenge these systems of control. Through this, we find that for Sherwood, cake is also a symbol of celebration, ritual, and offering. It’s a way to come together in the community to recognize important events. With this, eating forbidden foods becomes a larger metaphor for activism as a way of abandoning convention.
Her video piece Other Dessert Landscapes, 2021 becomes a doctrine by which horses nurture and encourage the human spirit seen in the wild abandonment of the dancing female figure. Sherwood looks to capture the positive chaos of nature and with this, the horse becomes the teacher. “I was looking for a way to have a silent conversation, energetically, with horses in particular, and thinking about how nurturing they are, and the long history of horses being used as therapeutic tools for people who are trying to recover and heal from trauma. So, I started to consider the horse as a kind of mother.” In this piece, Sherwood focuses on the mysticism and beauty of horses and how to befriend and connect with them through food. She stages a lavish array of desserts, jellies and fruits on a banquet table in the desert, using this as a way of extending friendship with these majestic yet sensitive creatures. The expansive, isolated setting of the desert serves to enhance the beauty of these animals with the occasional human interaction as more responsive, intentional and stylized learning from the freedom of spirit exuding from these animals.
Within this body of work, Sherwood looks to channel this spiritual freedom in how she reimagines herself as a female and as an artist. Following the pandemic, Sherwood made a return to clay and ceramics – a medium she studied early in her career. The undeniable imprint of the artist’s hand and the time spent with the material shaped a new evolution in her practice where the precision of work imposed its own sense of control over her as an artist, rather than the other way round. These ideas of feeling watched or controlled; being hidden yet feeling seen and judged, are excavated and explored throughout The Cake Eaters. The animal subjects simultaneously protect and expose with Sherwood orchestrating the menagerie and female imagery through her whimsical magic, all from inside the imagined ‘belly of the horse’.
Dana Sherwood lives in Copake, New York and received her BFA from the University of Maine, Farmington. Concurrent to this exhibition she will be having her first solo museum exhibition at Florence Griswold Museum, which will run through September 18, 2022. Dana Sherwood has exhibited in dOCUMENTA 13, Mass MoCA, Storm King Art Center, Nassau County Museum of Art, FluxFactory, Socrates Sculpture Park, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and Marianne Boesky Gallery. Sherwood has had solo exhibitions at Denny Dimin Gallery (New York, 2016, 2019), Kepler Art Conseil (Paris, 2017), and Nagel-Draxler Reisbureau Galerie (Cologne, 2015). Her work has been featured or reviewed in publications including The New York Times, Forbes, Hyperallergic, Surface, The Village Voice, Food & Wine, The Huffington Post, Art F City, and the Miami Rail. Sherwood has received several prestigious residencies including Swing Space by LMCC, Pilchuck Glass School, and OMI International Arts Center. Sherwood has further upcoming exhibitions at the Berkshire Botanical Garden and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
Denny Dimin Gallery – New York is located at 39 Lispenard Street, New York, NY 10013. For sales and press inquiries, call +1 212 226 6537 or write [email protected].
Please join us for an opening reception with the artist on Friday, June 17th from 6 to 8 pm.