Updated: November 4th, 2020

Much of the recent dialogue on food centers on the Standard American Diet, processed food, and its increasing correlation to developing disease in the human body. The newest gallery exhibit in the Himmelfarb Gallery, “Raw to Processed,” is a series of drawings by Minnesota artist Karen Gustafson that explores this relationship of food to our health, and the nature of exactly what our food has become.

Gustafson’s work engages with the intersection of art and science; her drawings focus on underlying structures and patterns in food to research, reveal, and inform. As such, she used a scanning electron microscope to look at small portions of food to find the patterns within different types of food. Each diptych, or pair of drawings, investigates the relationship between elements of a raw food item (left panel) to its processed counterpart (right panel). The electron microscope used in Gustafon’s work shows the topography of the food, not the cellular layer. The hyper-detailed drawings depict three-dimensional images of the surface of the foods, showing the cavernous, mountainous, and sometimes unpredictable landscape of common edibles such as garlic, potatoes, ginger, and corn—both in their unadulterated and altered forms.

Cooking, crystalizing, or otherwise changing food varies its flavor, appearance, and nutritional value. As seen through the electron microscope, though, it also changes its anatomical makeup; natural patterns seen in pure foods are destroyed when that food is processed. Each set a four-month endeavor. The drawings are realized by intensely layering ink on heavy weight watercolor paper to render the topographical features of these microscopic yet visually expansive landscapes.

The Himmelfarb Gallery sees a rich connection between this artistic series and Maryland University of Integrative Health’s nutrition and herbal curriculums. The artwork will hopefully provide students, faculty, staff, and visitors an opportunity to engage in conversation centered on the topic of food and its correlation to human health.

Can’t make it to the Himmelfarb Gallery in person? Read a review of the exhibit in The Baltimore Sun.

About the Artist

Karen Gustafson is a member of the art faculty at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN. She holds a BFA from University of Minnesota and an MFA from University of Massachusetts. She has exhibited extensively throughout the Midwest. Karen is a 2014 recipient of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) Next Step Grant funded by The McKnight Foundation, and a 2012 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Exhibit Details

What: “Raw to Processed,” Drawings by Karen Gustafson

When: June 16 – September 10, 2016

Where: Himmelfarb Gallery, Maryland University of Integrative Health

7750 Montpelier Rd., Laurel, MD 20723

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.