EDGEWATER — A slice of melon perched on a nipple. A peanut shell protruding from a navel. A jumble of potatoes filling the crack of a model's backside.
These are just a few of the images adorning the walls of Loyola University's gallery room on West Sheridan Road.
The collection of photographs, called "Ponder Food as Love," were shot in a Milwaukee studio by Rogers Park resident Barbara Ciurej and her longtime partner-in-the-arts Lindsay Lochman.
"It was really an investigation for us about the nature of nurturing," said Ciurej, 57, inside the small gallery room that faces the busy street, her photos pinned to the white walls.
Ciurej said she's lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, while spending a lot of time at the gallery with Lochman.
The artists began two years ago photographing tight shots of models, with various edibles juxtaposed on their naked flesh.
The work explores the "the reciprocity of giving, and being nourished by that," Ciurej said.
The photo inspiration came during a residency program at Ragdale, an artist community in Lake Forest, where Ciurej and Lochman worked on projects near the compound's kitchen.
All meals were made for the artists and delivered to their studios, so they could focus on their work.
She began "realizing how grateful the artists were" for the food. The fruits and vegetables began to seem more than something that only satisfies hunger, she said.
"We have this biological drive to eat," she said, "but there's so much more to it. There's this fascination with food — and to share it."
The symbol of a birthday cake, a Christmas ham or Eve's apple in the Garden of Eden carries a meaning much deeper than the pit of a stomach, she said.
In one image, Ciurej points out that the peach — balancing on a woman's breastbone — is withering.
"And so is the flesh," she said.
"Ponder Food as Love" is being shown for free at Loyola's Ralph Arnold Fine Art Annex, 1131 W. Sheridan Rd., through April 13. The annex is open to Loyola students, faculty and staff from 8 to 10 a.m. daily. Other community members may visit the annex from 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and by appointment. For more information, contact the gallery at Gallery@LUC.edu or 773-508-7510.