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The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

“At the Table” Speaker Series | Hard to Swallow: The Racist Messages Behind American Images of Fruit

February 24, 2022 @ 5:30 p.m.

Representations of food were delicious to look at in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.  Paintings of grapes were so tempting to viewers that they often tried to pluck the painted fruit from the canvas.  Artists, in turn, enjoyed painting mouthwatering fruits, like capturing the glassy surfaces of watermelons or prickly facades of pineapples.

Though fun to depict and view, representations of fruit had darker consequences and perpetuated cruel, racist stereotypes about the people who produced and consumed it in the United States.  This book talk will bring together the disciplines of Art History and Food Studies to reveal how pictures of fruit struck the nerve of the nation’s most heated debates over labor, race and citizenship.

This in-person talk will take place at the Center for Creative Photography. It is presented in conjunction with The Art of Food exhibition and is co-sponsored with the UArizona Center For Regional Food Studies.

Shana Klein is a professor at Kent State University and holds a PhD in Art History from the University of New Mexico. There, she completed the dissertation—and now book—“The Fruits of Empire: Art, Food, and the Politics of Race in the Age of American Expansion.”  The book demonstrates how pictures of food were not mere decoration, but a platform for artists and viewers to have heated debates over the topics of race and citizenship. 

Klein has been awarded several fellowships—at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, among others—for her research .  She has presented her research in a number of peer-review journals and podcasts, and she teaches classes that bring together American art, material culture and social justice. 

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