These photo-realistic oil paintings by Lee Price explore themes of secret indulgences and women’s often-complex relationships with food.
In the portraits, women — usually Price herself — are shown eating a variety of foods in private spaces such as bathtubs and beds. The locations demonstrate the secrecy that people may feel over compulsive eating. The women are shown with a wide variety of foods, from cups of tea to pancakes, though most of the choices are decadent and unhealthy options like cupcakes, doughnuts, or popular snack foods. In many she is actively eating, while in others like Sleeping With Peaches the food is simply nearby.
“I use food as a metaphor for the ways we distract ourselves from being present,” Price says.
The work is partly influenced by Price’s own history with eating disorders, and she says the paintings are very personal and she did not start out to make any broad statements. While some have called this type of work “food shaming,” Price doesn’t like this term.
“I like that people interpret it in their own ways, but to me, I’m painting about compulsive activity. I’m painting about, specifically, compulsive or emotional eating. I’m painting about how people check out, how people reach for things because–I think it’s in our nature,” she says.
I’m always amazed and a bit envious of artists who can achieve this level of realism through drawings or paintings. I also appreciate the interesting composition of paintings like Lemon Slices and Tea, in which the subject is surrounded by the foods in a way that goes beyond just eating them. Even though the birds’ eye view is meant to evoke the subject having an out-of-body experience watching herself, I also think it gives the paintings a sense of voyeurism into her most private moments.