Angel Food: Images Of Cakes and Nudes From A Bygone Era is an exhibition of vintage slide and snapshot images videotaped by Adair Brouwer and Rosemary Sleigh.
The dual imagery of Angel Food has an internal logic: the cakes and the nudes inform and modify each other in unexpected ways. The images speak of women’s work; of links between the domestic and the erotic, and questions of representation, control and pleasure. Interestingly, descriptives associated with cakes are often given to women’s bodies: eg, softness, sweetness, appetite.
Both collections are examples of a burgeoning field of photography – ‘found’ or ‘vernacular’ images. These largely anonymous, forgotten scenes were never intended to be art per se – but today they take on rich, compelling visual qualities and complex social significance.
The images of women typify a different time and way of thinking. Some reflect the genre of “Naturism”, others are closer to early Playboy photos; they pose with everyday items like a kid’s wading pool or a magazine rack, or more provocative props – lacy gloves, garter belts. The potency of these “erotic” slides has changed within the context of modern technology and image availability. Their simple backdrops and campy poses create a sense of pleasurable levity that is in conflict with some of the expressions evinced in eyes and body language. The flimsiness of the celluloid and the careful notations on the cardboard frames, give a material fragility to their presence.
Vintage photographs amount to a kind of people’s history of the modern world. Cultural artifacts scattered among fleamarkets. So much of the appeal of these orphaned snapshots lies in their poignancy (who were these people, now dead, and how did their lives unfold?) their immediacy (someone wanted to capture that precise moment) and the fascinations of archaic technologies. To me they are art of a beguiling order, not least because in this era of Instagram – where everything seems to be exposed – these pictures keep their secrets.
Rosemary Sleigh is an artist living in Victoria. She is a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.
Victoria resident Adair Brouwer is a former journalist, and a longtime collector of vernacular or ‘found’ photography. Her collection of cakes was videotaped with the assistance of Lyle Almond.