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The Fetching Veggie Etchings

Tiny, Little Pleasures

Living in San Francisco, at times, can feel like Alice must have in Through the Looking Glass. Sometimes we can feel enormous and sometimes we feel very, very small. As San Franciscans we take the lead throughout the country in grand social movements like green living and the slow food movement yet at other times we can be walking along a street only to discover a small neighborhood gallery, with small etchings that evoke the tiny little pleasures of simply eating vegetables.

Maria Forde, invites us take a moment and honor our vegetables in her exhibition, "The Fetching Veggie Etchings", at little tree gallery. This is her second exhibition at this one room, (one very small room) gallery, her collaged etchings are as straightforward at the show’s title exists. In each of the eight pieces on view, one vegetable is featured, layered above and around shapes of patterned fabric pieces, all of which harkens us back to quiet experiences (more imagined than real) of enjoying fresh vegetables.

In addition to the work in the exhibition, Maria Forde has produced a 2008 hand drawn calendar of food, each month displaying food icons like the Dunkin’ Donuts man or the Frosted Flakes spokes-animal, Tony the Tiger. These flip book style calendars are on sale for only $3 for, it seems, no other reason than Forde wanting each gallery visitor to be able to take a piece of her vegetables with them when they leave. She has also made a publication for the gallery that describes the etching process for viewers to ensure that no part of the entire exhibition remains mysterious for anyone.

Inside each frame that Forde fabricated by hand, she combines beautifully executed etchings of squashes, broccoli, onions and the like with hand-sewn zigzagged or thin line borders and swaths of fabrics seemingly cut from small town picnic tables or country aprons. Other pieces also include smaller etchings of text, as seen in one of corn, which centered under an image of corn wrapped in a branded plastic repeating the mantra, “eat it like a typewriter”.

What may be most interesting about Maria Forde’s fetching little etchings is that even though she is embracing familiar tropes of sentimentality and nostalgia, her work does not come off as a heavy-handed reminder to eat responsibly grown vegetables nor does it self-righteously employ a fictional nostalgia of the ‘olden days’ when eating was better. Even though the work is simple, layered with soothing, soft colors and constructed with a loose kind of meticulousness it is open just enough for the viewer to walk into it, and take away from it whatever he or she prefers. It teeters quite deftly between decorative food art and loveliness.

The experience of viewing the etchings is similar to when you are alone and you eat a fresh vegetable and it is delicious, incredible even. Forde’s work is like trying to describe to someone else what that private, visceral experience of eating that vegetable was really like. There is no way to actually communicate that kind of simple joy, so instead other tools are employed, like patterns, colors, textures and form.

Forde’s collages keep all of these tools separate from each other but still together, held within their frame, leaning towards a language of food and eating that although has all of the enormity of multiple movements and politics attached to it, does not have a language as clearly small and simple as Maria Forde’s eight little etchings of squash, green beans, broccoli, parsnip, corn, yam, kale and onion.

The Fetching Veggie Etchings
Runs through Dec 22nd
at little tree gallery
3412 22nd Street @ Guerrero
San Francisco, CA 94110
hours: W-S 12-6pm or by appointment
Admission: Free