Peek in the Wolff Gallery windows and you might see a brilliant, royal blue Hungry-Man box pinned to a wall. Walk through the door and upon closer inspection, you’ll find it’s not a cardboard box, but a painstakingly felted—and remarkably accurate—fuzzy sculpture.
For Felt Grocery, Portland artist Lebrie Rich crafted 20 life-sized sculptures of the processed foods we all fondly remember eating as children, from Hostess Donettes to Whoppers to Cheez-Its. Each was individually hand-stitched and felted with temptingly soft wool (unfortunately, this is not an interactive exhibit, so no touching!). Their creation was a time-consuming task that reveals itself in every stitched detail, down to barcodes, raised print, and even individual Donettes visible inside their felted package. Posed against Wolff Gallery’s pearly walls, the vibrant colors of America’s most iconic brands take on a whimsical beauty—and act as a bleak reminder of the mass production inherent in our Western food culture.
Rich, who owns PenFelt, a feltmaking studio in Southeast Portland, uses the tactile medium to combine personal and cultural nostalgia with a deeper political consciousness.
Inspired by the tumult of the 2016 presidential election, Rich set out to create pieces that brought her joy but also to explore and critique unfettered capitalism and the waste culture we’ve all grown accustomed to. These products, with their memories of family, warmth, and sustenance, also represent to Rich “late capitalism gone wrong.”
To experience them as works of fuzzy art is to open yourself to the warm rush of nostalgia that these foods of childhood engender, not unlike the sugar high of the products they represent. Stay too long, and the aftertaste of mechanical process and corporate branding seeps in. Bit like a Hostess Donette, really.
11 a.m.–6 p.m. Wed–Sun thru Oct 8, Wolff Gallery, FREE