On Wednesday night, two police officers stood outside the Chinatown gallery Sargent’s Daughters. Only, there was no law-breaking or so-called “suspicious activity” to be investigated. Rather, they wanted to know what all the hubbub was about. Particularly, why everyone seemed to be munching cookies from a large, bright orange pair of pants. And no ordinary pair of pants. These were a rendition of the lower half of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit in motion.
Reach up and remove the lid, and you’ll find dozens of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, baked from the actual recipe Clinton submitted for a “prospective First Lady Bake-off” conceptualized by Family Circle in 1992.
The five-foot-tall cookie jar is one piece of Housewife, conceptual artist Jennifer Rubell’s first solo exhibition in New York City.
Rubell is no stranger to food, having made a name for herself through her elaborate and artistic culinary spreads, curating vast meals for high-end weddings and events, including a benefit at the Brooklyn Museum that featured a piñata of Andy Warhol’s head and 150 roasted rabbits. She’s also no stranger to festivities featuring the rich and famous, as her uncle co-owned Studio 54 and her parents have been art collectors for may years. Fittingly, Andy Warhol sketched her portrait—on a napkin of all things—when she was young.
This show isn’t just about the cookies, as Rubell is primarily interested in the interactive nature of food art, rather than exclusively the materials it invites. Thus, any sort of thing that can be tangibly engaged with will do. In this case, she told The New York Times in 2013, “I always thought that the things I was interested in were ideally suited to being a housewife, except there was no way in hell I had any interest in being a housewife.”
This idea has now been illustrated via art exhibition, naturally. Rubell has placed the “forbidden desires” of the non-housewife all over the gallery. You can step into shiny red pumps and clutch a vaccuum, located quite literally up on a pedestal.
Other selections include a series of lovelorn paintings, with the artist’s actual phone number accompanying feverish lipstick prints. These were all created using thick smears of red oil stick, described as “the closest the art world gets to manufacturing lipstick.”
At the back of the gallery, there is a door frame with a mannequin almost floating in front of it. Stand in the doorway, and you become a dashing gentleman holding a woman in your arms. Or, at least some sort of humanlike figure.
At the opening night of Housewife, people flooded in and out, nearly all of them grabbing a cookie or three. Others gingerly stepped into the pair of heels, usually with some persuasion. The notorious cookie jar’s vivid orange hue was sadly reminiscent of a certain President-Elect, but perhaps that’s all the more reason to snatch away everything inside until there’s nothing left.
Jennifer Rubell: Housewife is on view through February 26 at Sargent’s Daughters.
Update, January 20: The original version of this post was revised to correct an error. The canvas pieces were made using oil stick, not acrylic paint.