2,340 Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches: an exercise in empathy for mother

My artwork explores the ways people relate to food - it goes beyond physically nourishing us, sometimes providing emotional nourishment, comfort, and at times providing escape. Food is more than just fuel; it has become a cultural obsession.

The PB&J is a quintessentially American symbol, stirring up childhood memories for many. During my own childhood, my mother made me this sandwich every day, from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Unintentionally, it became a symbol of love, a tiny gesture to say, “I want to provide you with nourishment.” As an adult, I have mixed feelings when I think about how many of these sugary sandwiches I ate while growing up, and find it interesting how often we feed each other not quite nourishing foods as a sign of love. This project was a durational art piece, intending to explore the different emotional effects that result from committing to making 2,340 sandwiches - attempting to physically empathize with what my mother had done for me. By being intentional about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I hope to transform a seemingly mundane task into a significant experience. I created a PB&J sandwich to represent each day of school from Kindergarten to 12th grade, over a period of 5, ten-hour work days. Surrounding me as I worked were photographs my mother took in the 1980’s, documenting the step-by-step process of making a PB&J. At the end of each day, I donated the sandwiches to The Bowery Mission.

photo credits: Jason Bisnoff, via DNAInfo (top), Garrett Shore (bottom four images)