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On Exhibit: the glory of junk food

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Artist Linda Dolack says, "I joke with my kids that...the four basic food groups are artificial flavor, artificial color, additives, and preservatives." In her most recent work Dolack has copied the designs on food packages with colored beads, producing life-size replicas that glitter even more alluringly than the real thing. "I think the original packaging is beautiful," says Dolack. "The colors are always pumped up. If they could plug those boxes in, they would. The marketing people are the real stylists behind my exhibit." The chicken on a TV-dinner box seems almost to leap out and touch you; the beads, glued or sewn on, shimmer with a light that weirdly recalls both the flicker of color television and the ethereal glow of religious art.

While meticulously copying the tiniest details, such as the green pull-string on a roll of Life Savers, Dolack also "takes the original products and makes them even more glamorous. I think I treat them in a reverential way--I'm putting them on a pedestal." Some have jewels pasted on them as well as beads, and Dolack's droll exaggeration helps articulate what's disturbing: "We're lured in like bees to honey.

"I don't want to tell people that this food is not good for us, but it is a kind of a fix. I fall into the trap too: I want it because of the advertising, but I'm being tricked. The real products are generally not what's shown; they have all kinds of creative ways of making this food look fabulous. The advertising stylists will, I think, pour glue over cereal, because it's thick and looks like cream and makes us salivate. I'm often disappointed by what the actual food looks like--but I still love it."

The repetitive labor required to ornament the sculptures--gluing the beads onto one side of a cereal box for Trix took 28 hours--is a reference to "women's work," to Dolack's own decades of working in the home. Raised in Rolling Meadows, she dropped out of college in the 60s to marry, though she eventually earned two art degrees. "People don't notice you've made dinner; they just sit down and eat it," she says. "I grew up in an area where all the houses are the same--it seemed like a cookie-cutter existence....By the mere fact that I'm choosing to embellish this product, I am making a statement. By replicating it, I'm saying: 'This is what they want you to see; you see this every day--did you notice?'"

Fifteen of Linda Dolack's beaded sculptures will be on view at Lyons Wier Gallery, one of 97 galleries exhibiting at Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art at Navy Pier's Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand. Hours are Friday and Saturday from 11 to 8 and Sunday from noon to 6. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $16 for a weekend pass, and $7 for students, seniors, and groups. Call 800-561-7632 for more. --Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): "Trix," and "M&Ms".

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