Lee Price has gained recognition for a series of hyperrealistic oil paintings depicting women and food, aptly named “Women and Food.” These paintings subvert common tropes of the depiction of the female body in fine art and media through composition, subject matter, point of view, and the figure itself.
The figures themselves are not sexy at all. Jelly Doughnuts depicts a middle-aged woman, with lines on her face, while Lisa in Tub with Chocolate Cake depicts a fat woman. In the latter piece, the figure’s breasts aren’t really shapely, and are not at all emphasized. They rather fade into the rest of the piece. Some of the pieces in the series, including Jelly Doughnuts and Self Portrait in Tub with Chinese Food, don’t even show the crotch, breasts, or buttocks at all. There is nothing particularly sexual about the image. The figures are simply existing.
The figures’ surroundings are not sexy either. Despite the fact that they are in beds and bathtubs, which normally implies sexuality, the most obvious aspect of the settings is the mess. There is food everywhere, dirty plates, crumbs on the floor. Worrying about ants is not anyone’s definition of sexy. Even the bathtub itself isn’t sexy. Sexy women take bubble baths, with their cleavage and knees flirtily peeking above the bubbles. The bathtubs are full of plain, clear water, showing every lump and roll of fat, forcing the viewer and the figure to look at it.
Most importantly, the women in Price’s series are unapologetic about themselves. The bathroom is a place of privacy and isolation, and the bed is as well, to a lesser extent. In this setting, a person is not expecting to be seen, and as such has the freedom to look however they want and do whatever they want unobserved. The junk food, the bed, and the bath are all very indulgent, and there is guilt especially linked to the junk food. Being able to lie in bed, or soak in a bath, and gorge yourself on junk food feels amazing. This indulgence is defying the expectation for women to sacrifice their pleasures for others or for their looks. On top of that, in all of the pieces in Price’s series, the viewer is blocked out. The compositions are all closed because of the bird’s-eye view, meaning that the viewer is not a part of the scene, and is rather an outsider.
Lee Price creates the sense that the women in the pieces are unapologetic about the way they look and what they’re doing. They are taking up lots of space, making a mess, eating food others may disapprove of, and baring their bodies in all their imperfections, all while completely ignoring the viewer, as if to say, “I’ll do what I want, and I don’t care what you think. Go away.”