In a series of intimate self portraits that took New York based artist Lee Price seven years to complete, she explores the female relationship to eating, food, shame, and pleasure in settings that are deeply private and interior.
The paintings thrive on the push and pull of voyeurism and perfectionism, their hyper realistic style in contrast with their content – a moment that feels intimately ritualistic and uncanny.
Price dreams up and stages the scenes, which are then shot from above by photographer Tom Moore. Price converts the photograph into a transparency which is projected on to the canvas to create an outline, and goes on to paint from there.
“The areal view evokes the feeling of an out of body experience: the subject is watching herself engage in a compulsive behavior but is unable to stop. There is an absurdity to this act of compulsion. At the same time it is an attempt to find real nourishment,” says prince about her work in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Why is it a faux pas to view women eating? It is reflective of some aspects of contemporary culture that are in themselves hard to look at head on. It is a stereotype that women turn to food in times of distress; emotional eating is a classic trope of the rom-com a-la Bridget Jones, making disordered eating behaviors feel even more shameful and isolating for women who struggle with them.
At the same time, it is societally unacceptable for women to gain weight or not be actively working towards the marketed ideal body. Food turns from a necessity of survival and a pleasurable aspect of human life to a weighted signifier of desirability and of shame. Prince herself struggled with an eating disorder for many years before she began to make work about her relationship with food. She describes the paintings as an exploration of an action that is compulsive yet comforting;
Price’s work is simultaneously highly relatable and deeply personal. The interior world she invites her viewers into is as magical and enticing as it is compulsive and unsettling. Food becomes a bedfellow, an alibi, a secret indulgence.