"Desserted" by Jessica Olah

February 9, 2016 - March 6, 2016

The season of Lent in the Church is traditionally marked by the practice of denying and abstaining from certain luxuries as a form of penitence. For a period of approximately six weeks beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending before Easter Sunday, the focus is on simple living, prayer and fasting, with the aim of growing closer to God and preparing for the celebration that comes with Easter.

Even for those who do not observe Lent, fasting can be a beneficial practice that allows the individual to clear the mind and free the heart from excessive distractions, desires and dependencies. But to abstain from food is not always an easy task. Food is integral to our survival and tightly bound to the identity and experience of the emotional self; it has the power to recall memories, to evoke feelings of pain, pleasure, joy or regret. To deny oneself of comfort foods is just as much a test of one’s physical discipline as it is of one’s mental and emotional strength.

Jessica Olah started this series in the midst of her own fast from sugar. In a conspicuous display of self-denial, she captures others' moments of indulgence as she undertakes her own stretch of abstinence from the very same sugary delights. As we view these images of individuals taking great pleasure in consuming their favorite sweet treats, the artist invites us to consider the positive and negative aspects of desire and denial in our own lives, and the hunger to consume desire’s various manifestations.  What feelings do we associate with consumption? What happens when inordinate desires consume or control us? What happens when we choose to abstain?

About the artist:
Jessica Olah is an artist and illustrator originally from the California Bay Area and presently based in Brooklyn, NY. Her current work explores how we connect with food in the emotional, mental and social parts of our being. Most recently, Olah tasked herself with an “exercise of empathy” for her mother by making 2,340 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in five days in an effort to understand how much dedication it took her mother to make school lunches for her for 13 years. Olah has shown at Slope Suds and Dunwell Doughnuts in Brooklyn and participated in a number of group shows throughout NY and California.