“I don’t want to give it all away,” docent Sandra Townsend said of her plans for her next focus tour at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. “I just want people to go and be open to the experience of exploring art through a different sense.”
Townsend put together and will lead the “Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Food and Spirits in Art” focus tour at the Currier on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be her second year running the tour, which is open to everyone and is included in the museum admission price.
“All we can do is whet the appetite for the tour and hope that if people are not out shopping on that Sunday morning, they would want to go to the Currier to have this intimate view of how people represent food and drink in art — how do you get something that is so three-dimensional and multi-dimensional into a flat image and how does it reconnect with the viewer?” Townsend said.
The tour, she said, is more than just walking around the museum and looking at pictures of food. It’s about the senses — sight, smell, sound, touch — and how food has been represented throughout history.
The group will stop in the European Gallery to view a few still-lifes that will fuel a discussion of the economics of food — for instance, “If the food is displayed on a platter then we were trading with the East at that point,” Townsend said.
How people in the image are responding to food and drink will also be a focal point of the tour; a painting of a card game set in a Dutch drinking house and the depiction of an extravagant banquet set for Cleopatra and Marc Antony are both pieces of art that have more to them than meets the eye, Townsend said.
“We will look at things that have food and drink in them but also at what’s behind the food and drink,” she said.
The works of local contemporary artist James Aponovich will be viewed. Townsend noted he has the ability to “make all of the foods look real, almost like pseudo photorealism.”
The tour will also pass through the museum’s glass collection so visitors will be able to see how food was served on platters, and drinks in glasses and punchbowls.
“The wonderful design of glass is a whole other subject,” Townsend said. Another highlight of the tour will likely be artwork featuring bootleggers in the Prohibition era.
“I’m not sure how many [pieces of art] we will see,” Townsend said. “What I have learned is when you visit a museum, you want to look very closely at a few works of art. You don’t want to just go running through the museum — it should be fewer works, closely reviewed.”
Townsend, a former teacher, said she is most looking forward to interacting with museum goers during the tour.
“The whole idea behind being a teacher is engaging people in exploring a topic,” she said. “Now I engage people in a work of art — it might sculpture, glassware or ceramics.”
“And of course,” she said, “I look forward to getting some new ideas from people that will go on the tour and be looking at the same work of art but their interpretation might not be the same.”