July 13 – August 27, 2016
Opening reception Wednesday, July 13, 6:00 to 8:00pm
First Thursday art walk August 4, 6:00 to 8:00pm


The works in this exhibition center on intertwining stories of vultures, fruit bats and viruses. Artist Maria Lux views contemporary disease spillovers through the historical and problematic golden ages of two European countries with global reach, combining symbolic Dutch and Victorian decorative arts with patterns derived from scientific knowledge. Details of recent outbreaks of the Nipah and rabies viruses in Bangladesh and India, respectively, are embedded in Lux’s designs. The unpredictable and unintentional deaths, human and animal, caused by outbreaks underlie tableaux presenting feasts of prosperity which in actuality tell stories of death, creating a three-dimensional experience similar to that found in memento mori paintings. Cups of wine under a crystal chandelier, exotic teas in bone china teacups, sumptuous cake, marble and artificial flowers sit with materials of biohazard and research sites (such as Tyvek® and plastic tarps). 

Lux draws from the work of conservationists, virologists, epidemiologists, biologists, anthropologists, art historians, social psychologists, and science writers to inform and inspire her projects. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry engages particularly with Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Denial of Death, which offers an explanation for human behavior based on attempting to avoid the anxiety of death.

“I was struck by the surprising number of metaphors using food and eating in his writing, and their relationship to these diseases so closely associated with consumption,” Lux says.  “Becker’s work rests on the assertion of a firm border between the human and the animal, and sees animals as a reminder of mortality. The interconnected-ness and vulnerability exposed by these stories threatens that distinction and feeds our anxieties.”


Maria Lux (b. 1984 in Ames, Iowa) is a research-based artist working across a variety of forms and materials with a particular interest in the role of animals in generating human knowledge. She holds an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2012) and a BFA from Iowa State University (2006). She has exhibited in group and solo shows across the United States, and was featured in the book The Art of the Animal: 14 Women Artists Explore the Sexual Politics of Meat, (Lantern Books, New York). Lux was the the 2014 Artist in Residence at the Center for New Art at William Patterson University, New Jersey.

Written by Maria Lux as a companion to the exhibition, Much to Digest is a standalone collection of interrelated writings on decorative arts, viruses, vultures, fruit bats, colonialism, death anxiety and feasts. The tract is available in hardcopy through Upfor editions or as a digital preview at right.