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‘Zoonotic Tonic’ Capitalizes on Food as Art
Thursday, March 10, 2022


Mia Brownell specializes in sci-fi still life paintings.

The New York-based artist pairs 17th century Dutch realism and the coiling configurations of scientific molecular imaging to address the culture, science and environmental issues surrounding the global industrial food complex.

Brownell’s colorful works are currently on exhibit at Friesen+Lantz Gallery, 320 N. First Ave. N., in Ketchum. And she will be on hand to discuss her work during the March Gallery Walk from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11.

She will also offer a free Artist Talk at the gallery at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 12.

Brownell calls her exhibition “Zoonotic Tonic,” referring to an infectious disease transmitted between species from animals to humans or from humans to animals. We know all about that, having dealt with COVID for the past two years.

The tonic refers to a drug that increases body tone, or something that refreshes, such as a carbonated flavored beverage.

Her exhibition asks primal questions about food from how it’s grown to scientific invention. If we are what we eat, she says, then we can look to our food and how it is processed, shared and consumed for clues about ourselves and what we may become.

That includes looking at suspect food markets that may start zoonotic pandemics, drug and vaccine development and new research into bio-hacking.

"I think the most fascinating thing about Brownell's work is how her paintings allow us to reflect on our cultural relationship with food,” said Gallery Owner Yanna Lantz. “It can be such a delicate conversation, but it is presented in a magnificent, thought-provoking way. Through her work, she is asking questions about food and bio-technology that have no answer – but oftentimes the questions are more important than the answers."

Brownell’s works depict a masterful use of light, composition and detail as she presents a form of the traditional still-life with a striking contemporary flair, said Lantz.

Her paintings draw on everything from Chinese-Japanese screen painting to 19th century American trompe-L’oeil.

“The opulent concoctions of Dutch Baroque painting, in particular are thinly veiled admonitions to muse upon the transitory nature of life,” writes art critic Peter Frank. “The plum wizens, the fowl expires of its wounds, and the centerpiece of the entire arrangement is a human skull and/or guttering candle.”

Frank notes that Brownell is not prescribing a solution for global warming or even for issues with biotechnology and world food inequities. She is simply setting such issues before her viewers.

“Our cup runneth over, she cautions with tonic and toxin equally. Whatever your tonic may be or has been—wine, the vaccine, both?--during the current zoonotic pandemic, this series explores being human in the age of biotechnology.”


  • KNEELAND GALLERY, 271 N. 1st Ave., will hold a reception for three artists: Steven Adams, Shanna Kunz and Sean Wallis.

    Wallis is a recent addition to the gallery. He apprenticed under his father Kent R. Wallis, who is renowned for his floral and botanical landscape paintings. Sean Wallis uses a combination of brush and knifework to built a texture that he defines as “impressionistic romanticism.”

    Steven Adams, a longtime artist at Kneeland, is as apt to paint a broken fence or a ditch as a majestic mountain in his effort to portray the elusive feeling of timelessness through commonplace objects.

    Utah artist Shanna Kunz dotes on mood, light and color to offer her interpretations of the landscape of her area.

  • GILMAN CONTEMPORARY, 661 Sun Valley Road, is featuring the work of Laurie Victor Kay whose bright sunny images should resonate among viewers ready to move on from winter.

    Kay will be at Gilman to discuss her work during Gallery Walk.

    Kay, a painter-turned photographer-- takes viewers on a journey through paths lined by trees in such far-flung places as Luxembourg, St. Tropez, Paris, Australia, Italy, Thailand and New York. Through repetition and digital manipulation, her large-scale color photographs lead viewers into her envisioned world as they capture the trees unique to the public parks of London and other places.

    This will be her fifth solo exhibition at Gilman Contemporary. Her commercial clients include the Tiger Woods Foundation, Nike, Proctor and Gamble, AT&T, the New York Times.

    Her lyrical photographs play with viewers sense of perspective, giving new life to familiar landscapes.

    “Her arboreal images show branches, trunks and leaves splitting and rejoining to create a new narrative that is no longer natural but more phycological,” according to Gilman Contemporary. “Metro scenes and ornate interiors are further manipulated with an almost mathematical perfectionism allowing her to construct energized and idealized spaces.”

    Gilman Contemporary is also showing “New Work” by Italian painter Marco Casentini, known for his solid square layers of color.

  • GAIL SEVERN GALLERY, 400 First Avenue North, is celebrating Women’s History Month with a group show honoring the gallery’s talented and hardworking female artists.

    “We celebrate the meaningful contributions that women have made to the arts by highlighting our very own female artists, working across various media,” said Gail Severn. “We invite the public to join us in reflection on the often-overlooked influences of women in art history and to empower those currently working to leave their mark. This exhibition pays homage to the voices of all the trailblazing women leading the way for change.”

    The exhibition features solo shows for Linda Christensen, who tries to portray the humanness of people as they turn inward,  and Lynda Lowe, as well as the works of such artists as Marcia Myers, Laura McPhee, Kathy Moss, Raphaelle Goethals, Lisa Kokin, Jane Rosen, Margaret Keelan, Ann Siems and Squeak Carnwath.

    Stay tune for April when the gallery will present Berkeley Hoerr’s “Where There’s Smoke,” a breakout solo exhibition of mixed media paintings and embroidered pieces examining nature during various stages of wildfire.

  • SUN VALLEY MUSEUM OF ART, 5th and Washington streets, is exhibiting Wabi Sabi, an artform rooted in the ideas of imperfection, impermanence, repair and transformation. The exhibition includes Henry Whiting’s collection of contemporary Japanese teabowls crafted by Shiro Tsujimura.
  • MESH GALLERY, 4th and Leadville Ave., will feature colorful new photography by Jeffrey H. Lubeck of Kauai. Lubeck will show a slide show of his work at 6:30 p.m.


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