These images dovetail into my larger exploration of suburban culture and identity. There are many opportunities for interaction among neighbors, but none are as significant as the cookout. I produced these photographs with simple motives. They are formal compositions built with food that can be consumed at a outdoor gathering. Clarity and intimacy was my primary concern. They are still life set ups of something real, monumental and vibrant. The colors and shapes matter as much as food itself.
Cookouts are not exclusive to a suburban environment. That said, amongst the various activities that take place in a neighborhood, a cookout is one of the scarce opportunities that the suburban citizen wilingly partakes in to build community with his fellow neighbors.An art exhibit about a cookout is certainly removed from the real experience. There is no fire and no outside. In the context of an exhibit, these elements cannot be directly appreciated and consumed, yet the idea remains. Like a barbecue, an opening is a ritual gathering.
As a title “Pleased to Meat You” operates on several levels. It is an obvious play on words. It is an affirmation of my carnivorous ways. It is a pure and truthful statement about my time as a grad student, friend and neighbor to the many people I have met along the way. This is a salutation to everyone who comes to look and share some time, and if they bring a dish to pass, all the better.
One of the most important elements of a cookout is the food. It is what puts the ‘cook’ into cookout. Cookout food is not fancy. It does not need to be on fine china in seven courses. Never the less it is universally understood as something special. Much of it can be enjoyed with minimal utensils. These are everyday meals that probably should not be enjoyed everyday. Once in a while though, it is acceptable to indulge in excess calories and alcohol in the name of celebrating friendship and the weekend.