From Local Pizza to Warhol, a Tasty Bite of Food as Art

Visitors to the Akron Art Museum’s current exhibition, Snack, are greeted with a larger-than-life oil painting of a slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza that looks so real you’ll be tempted to reach for it.

Pepperoni and Sausage was commissioned by Luigi’s Pizza, a more than 60 year old Akron institution, and loaned to the museum for this special collection. Cleveland artist Mike Sobek painted the deliciously detailed slice in the style of hyperrealism for which he is known. “The artist takes this lowly and common food and elevates it, painting it in a historically revered medium,” says curator Theresa Bembnister.

On a recent visit to the exhibition, Jamie Simpson, executive chef liaison at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, was drawn to Sobek’s pizza slice because of the detail the artist gave to something that, at quick glance, seems so simple. According to Marcie Barker, CVI’s director, Jamie’s been known to deconstruct pizzas from a favorite CVI hangout, Jim’s Pizza Box of Milan.

“A snack is not a meal. Consumed in smaller portions, it’s lighthearted, fun and not as nutritious,” says Theresa. Snack is a fun, whimsical, and somewhat nostalgic collection of 22 works of art featuring ceramic sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and collage. But look more closely and there are a few darker themes and messages that tell a story of America and its relationship with food.

Cleveland Arts Prize-winning ceramic artist, Kristen Cliffel’s work, The Dirty Dozen, depicts a centerpiece of pink and white iced cupcakes. On closer inspection, her deceptively fit-for-a-party cupcakes address doubt, pressures, commitment, and body image in girly cursive messages.

Chef and farmer Ben Bebenroth liked Sandy Skoglund’s Body Limits, a mesmerizing photograph of bacon-wrapped figures. Ben, who raises hogs on his Cuyahoga Valley farm, Spice Acres, added that his executive chef, Joshua Woo, has a bacon fetish.

Akron artist Stephen Tomasko has three prints on display from his Fairgrounds series, depicting the beautiful and sometimes strange images he captures at county fairs. John Baeder is an American photo-realist painter known for depictions of roadside diners. His 1980 piece, Red Robin, is on display.

The exhibition also features works by three major pop artists including Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Soup 1966 , depicting a colorful screen print of the iconic soup can on a white shopping bag. Part of the Akron Art Museum’s permanent collection, the piece is relevant to the exhibit and may be making a commentary on consumerism, the rise of convenience foods, or may simply have been a favorite meal of the artist.

Snack runs through September 3, 2016. On Thursdays, the museum stays open until 9pm and admission is free. For hours and details visit