ashland.news
May 23, 2024

‘Road Food’ exhibit offers food for thought

An image from the "Road Food" exhibit taken in Monument Valley.
August 12, 2023

Family spent nearly a year on the road before setting up home in Talent

By Art Van Kraft for Ashland.news

Ashland artist Beca Blake has created a story of survival in post-pandemic America. The “Road Food” exhibit documents her small family’s 10-month journey.  Last year Blake, her two young children and a Pomerania dog named Biskit traveled the Pacific northwest and southwestern states, living in a van. 

Becca Blake at Catalyst Gallery with an image from the “Road Food” exhibit.

“This is a story of post-pandemic America,” Blake explains. “We were homeless and living on the road and so we also mined topics of survival from the urban and rural landscapes we were in as well. While we traveled, we covered ourselves in ‘food’ blankets … a sort of a ‘blanketism’ practice, to make a statement that the current challenges for survival have increased rapidly due to pandemic circumstances and the basics of survival have become more difficult to achieve.”

Blake’s journey started after her graduation from Southern Oregon University with a degree in fine art and business leadership. She had qualified for subsided housing on campus and a scholarship by maintaining a 4.0 grade average, but when school ended, so did her subsidies. Blake then packed up her small family and hit the road. Her children brought three blankets that were images of food: a tortilla, lettuce and salmon.

“My children and I have been through years of crisis, hardships, and tribulations of all kinds,” Blake said. “The small joys of life bring us the most uplifting pleasures. We’ve been living in humble rentals and moving often over the past 15 years. We have lost family members and loved ones. We have been through numerous physical ailments, health challenges and failures to thrive.”

Blake said she also had to overcome domestic abuse and never received any child support. 

“Our family road trips became our solace,” Blake said. “A new place, a new perspective, a new people and, when possible, a super plush Airbnb rental for a couple days.  Of course, the tortilla blanket, an avocado pillow, and other comforts from home accompanied us along the way.

The deets
The show “Road Food” continues at the Catalyst Ashland gallery, 357 East Main St., until Thursday, Aug. 17. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

“It was the combination of food, shelter, income, health issues, trauma and need for social acceptance which were all piled upon us at once. That took a toll on our psycho-emotional well-being. The novelty food blankets allowed us to separate ourselves from it all in a statement that communicated how out of place we felt with our surroundings, due to being in survival mode.”

The novelty food blankets provided a perfect representation for her lack of a personal place, Blake said.   

After 10 months of traveling in a van and staying in temporary housing, Blake finally was able to purchase a home in Talent this year.  

“We’ve been living in rentals for 15 years and finally have a family home of our own and my health issues are corrected thanks to support from local agencies and my family,” she said. 

Blakes said she is still concerned about the dire circumstances she sees all around her.

An image from the “Road Food” exhibit taken near the Table Rocks.

“Parents with young children are the most vulnerable next to the elderly population. It’s a serious concern when parents and children are being priced out of the housing market and standard of living for the area where they live. I hope that by sharing my story through creative expression and communication,” Blake said. 

The artist has also created “Milk Visions 365,” a new series of 365 paintings using white paint over black, making one image for every day of the year. She said the white represents milk and her womanhood as a mom. Blake said it’s important for women to document their journey. That body of work will be displayed in the near future. She also will also be offering presentations and workshops about creativity for social change that targets women’s oppression, a situation she said she experienced working at the women’s shelter in Ashland. 

Art Van Kraft is an artist living in Ashland and a former broadcast journalist and news director of a Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate. Email him at artukraft@msn.com.

An image from the “Milk Visions 365” show.
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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