Cafeteria II: BU art professor examines the culture of the university cafeteria

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Brandon University Visual Arts Assistant Professor Lisa Wood has a unique perspective on university cafeterias, and she’d like to share it with you.

Her exhibit, Cafeteria II, is on display at the University of Winnipeg from now until April 8, in Gallery 1C03.

It’s a joint exhibition with fellow artist Elvira Finnigan, exploring the dynamics of eating together and question how the experience of sharing a meal might be recorded and remembered. The show is a follow-up to last year’s collaborative, process-based exhibition, Cafeteria, when the artists transformed Gallery 1C03 into a temporary dining hall and recorded participants eating their lunch together.

Woman looking at camera.
Brandon University Visual Arts Assistant Professor Lisa Wood

In 2016, Wood used time-lapse photographs of cafeteria diners to create drawings and painted studies of them in mid-bite and in conversation with one another. These smaller pieces have been re-worked for Cafeteria II into three large, double-sided oil on mylar paintings that are suspended in the gallery, invoking memories of the lunch gathering.

Participants will recognize their likenesses in Wood’s paintings as she has taken great care to capture their unique physical features and mannerisms. Yet the artist also condenses time and space, layering her subjects and bringing together individuals who did not necessarily eat with each other. The results are intense views of tables crowded with people who display a myriad of gestures, facial expressions and interactions. Wood’s paintings masterfully reflect the hustle and bustle of a cafeteria lunch and suggest the spirited social and mental engagement of the campus community.

While Wood employs portraiture to consider cafeteria interactions Finnigan works in still life, using inanimate objects to record and recall the communal dining experience. Upon the conclusion of last year’s lunch in the gallery, Finnigan doused the remnants in a salt brine solution that evaporated over time; the brine encrusted the leftovers, dishes and tabletops with delicate crystals. For Cafeteria II Finnigan returns selected lunch remains to the gallery, presenting them in entirely new contexts and alluding to notions of expanded time and space. Lunchtime tabletops have been cleared and are now hanging on the walls, the crystallized patterns upon them invoking celestial skies, constellations and deep time. Salted leftovers placed on pedestals resemble archaeological artifacts unearthed from the ground and reflect evidence of past civilization. Her photographs are aptly titled Pangea, named after the supercontinent that began to break apart 175 million years ago, thereby reinforcing this concept.

Wood has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. Her figurative-based artistic practice investigates transience and ritual. She has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships and has exhibited her painting and prints nationally and internationally. Before moving to Brandon, Manitoba to become Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual and Aboriginal Art at Brandon University, she was an active contributor to the Winnipeg arts scene.

An illustrated publication, featuring an essay by Natalia Lebedenskaia, accompanies the exhibition. It can be read in Gallery 1C03 or on the gallery’s website:

The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 12–4 p.m. and Saturday from 1–4 p.m. Admission is free and all are welcome. Gallery 1C03 is physically accessible.



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