Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting Exhibit Opens at HCC

Written by
Published on October 15, 2014
Front entrance of The Bert Chernow Galleries opens with expectant viewers inside. (Photo by Mike Lauterborn)

Front entrance of The Bert Chernow Galleries opens with expectant viewers inside. (Photo by Mike Lauterborn)

The HCC community, along with the public, was invited to view painter Mia Brownell’s Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting collection in the Burt Chernow Gallery on Thursday, September 25th.

The Chicago native’s works are food-based, frequently hinting at human sexuality, notably female sexuality. The images also resemble molecular structures with interpretations of various fruits such as apples and grapes.

In addition to being a nationally and internationally recognized artist, Brownell is also an art instructor at another Connecticut college close to home, Southern Connecticut State University. “A critic of the food industrial complex,” Brownell strives to create parallels between the natural and artificial. Her art serves as commentary about present-day issues concerning food.

She joked that she “didn’t know [she] would be speaking today,” but drew attention as she briefly gave an impromptu speech about her creations. Her camera-shy but inviting manner encouraged viewers to express how much they loved the pieces.

The painter admits a challenge about creating is “figuring out your own alphabet.” Brownell wants to blend imagination and reality while continuing to push boundaries. Her art “starts from a very intuitive place.” She said a “light bulb of idea” kicks off  the process, however her larger paintings require more planning and time. Every work provides her with a learning experience, she said, so it’s hard to pick a favorite among the bunch.

Brownell explains the process for larger paintings.  Photo by Mike Lauterborn

Painter Mia Brownell explains the process for larger paintings. (Photo by Mike Lauterborn)

Brownell’s art was chosen for the gallery because she “stood head and shoulders above the rest,” stated Robbin Zella, museum director. She saw some pieces in group shows then judged them in a program where Brownell finished as a finalist. Zella explained Brownell’s exceptional skills by noting the use of her traditionally styled works with “glazing techniques and beautiful, lush surfaces.” She also wanted to bring students interested in science into the gallery as a way to show how it can be translated into an art form. Zella said, smiling, that she’s “taking a seventeent-century genre and breathing in new life.”

Viewers from all walks of life universally gave positive remarks on Brownell’s pieces. Sophomore at HCC Eric Netsel first saw her work last year. His favorite, Still Life with Sweet Dreams, features two double helix structures with red pears throughout the mix. After admitting his confusion about his future, Netsel stated her work “got [him] back on track.”  He now studies genetics since her art “rejuvenized [the] idea of life fundamentals.”

Brownell addresses viewers with a brief speech about her work. Photo by Mike Lauterborn

Brownell addresses viewers with a brief speech about her work. (Photo by Mike Lauterborn)

Mike Lauterborn, photographer and freelance writer, also commented on the exhibit. Expressing his admiration for her technique, Lauterborn says “she is a master of lighting, [the] treatment of each individual element is amazing.” Her paintings are described by him as “otherworldly,” and often related her pieces to the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage. Lauterborn mentioned her art is like taking a journey throughout the body’s innerworkings, places like blood vessels are now magnified on canvas.

Brownell’s previous exhibitions were displayed in major cities like Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. They are also in private and public collections including the National Academy of Sciences. Media outlets such as The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, and New York Times have reviewed and published her work as well. Currently, the J. Cacciola Gallery shows her images in New York City.

The gallery featuring her twenty-eight paintings is located in the main lobby of Lafayette Hall. The exhibit will be on display until Monday, November 17.