Bread Line by Lynn Aldrich

Lynn Aldrich

Bread Line, 1991, Bread, © Lynn Aldrich, Courtesy of the Artist

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Abundance and Lack

Commentary by

California-based sculptor Lynn Aldrich is known for taking common objects and repurposing them to create sculptures that encourage one to look at those objects in a new and different way.

Bread Line (1991) is a thirty-five-foot installation of freshly baked loaves, sliced up and arranged on the gallery floor in a straight line. The work requires one to walk around or to step over the line while, at the same time, the smell overwhelms one’s senses. The work’s title evokes both a literal queue of people waiting for free or subsidized food and the condition of extreme economic hardship that makes such queues necessary.

On one level, this installation continues the advocacy of postwar artists such as the photographer Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) who used images to highlight the effects of poverty, to bring attention to homelessness, and to generate charity and empathy within those who had the capacity to help. Interpreted within this visual tradition, Bread Line holds in tension themes of plenty and want, abundance and lack. To represent the colloquialism literally is to present us with an irony: the thing so desired (bread) has been used abundantly to represent those who are in need. For bread to be used in this way, excess is necessary. 

This same tension between abundance and lack in relation to bread is present in Deuteronomy 8. In the wilderness, the Israelites lacked and were provided with the ‘gift-bread’ of God. Manna, in its daily provision, was a constant reminder of utter dependence (v.16). As the Israelites move into ‘a land where [they] may eat bread without scarcity’ (v.9 NRSV), they are instructed in the right response in order not to forget the Giver of bread. After you ‘eat your fill’, they are told, then ‘bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you’ (v.10 NRSV).

Put another way, worship guards against the amnesia that can follow satiation.

 

References

Brueggemann, Walter. 2001. Deuteronomy (Nashville: Abingdon Press)

Dyrness, William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic)

Lynn Aldrich: Uncommon Artist, dir. by John Schmidt (Biola University, 2016) <https://vimeo.com/135776541> [accessed 30 March 2020]

Pizer, Donald. 2007. ‘The Bread Line: An American Icon of Hard Times’, Studies in American Naturalism, 2.2: 103–28


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