Rachel Lee Hovnanian: Breakfast Cereal with a Message

Feast for the Eyes: Art Inspired by Food and Dining
Nassau County Museum of Art
Through November 6, 2016

By Debbie Wells, Artful Circle

dsc_0020Contemporary artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian explores modern America’s obsession with sweet breakfast food in a box. Seemingly wholesome and convenient, sugar cereals have been an important staple in every household for decades. This mixed media installation demonstrates their seductive qualities with colorful and cheerful packaging oozing a glittery white substance throughout, but with a deeper message.

“The image of Tony the Tiger, Trix Rabbit and Lucky the Leprechaun entertained generations of children on Saturday mornings,” explains Hovnanian. In addition to enticing kids to want the products, mothers were persuaded to believe that the dyed, genetically modified corn product we call cereal, was a “‘grrrreat!’ way to feed their families.”

Raised by a mother who was a gourmet chef that ran a cooking school, Hovnanian was never allowed to eat fake or synthetic food. Like any kid, Hovnanian envied her friends whose mothers were less strict. Now she wants people to see that mass-produced products weren’t necessarily the healthiest of choices. In today’s world, the result of succumbing to these temptations is the rise of childhood obesity and other maladies.

Hovnanian’s art also connects the instant gratification of quick-to-eat food to the similar sensation we get when using social media rather than personal one-on-one communication. She asks the viewer to think about the unreal experience of virtual reality that we face on our screens every day, complete with faux friends and a false sense of human interaction, and compare it to the addiction to the crunchy, child-friendly, candy-like features of commercial breakfast cereal, such as Rice Krispies, that we could eat every morning. Then ask yourself, Who can resist either addiction, whether it is the ultimate sugar rush or the instantaneous flow of entertainment and information of the internet? Rachel Lee Hovananian’s art reflects that neither sugar cereal nor cyberspace are objectively bad, but are an undeniable part of present-day life.

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