IT ALL started with a cheeseburger.
Ten years ago, Rubi McGrory picked up a project she didn’t know she’d be continuing to this day.
“I was getting my MFA in fibers from SCAD, and I did a lot of embroidery work, but I’m also a chef,” explains McGrory. “I said, ‘I’m not doing anything with food,’ and of course that’s what I worked with. That’s where my passion is.”
McGrory married the two by buying two McDonald’s burgers and sewing lace onto one and beads onto the other. She displayed the projects for Open Studios on Friday, then went out for drinks with friends and forgot about them.
“I got back in the studio on Monday and they were still fine,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Ew, that’s kind of gross.’”
McGrory put the burgers in a box under her desk and found them again while cleaning the studio a few months later. They were still intact.
By this time, McGrory was fascinated by the lasting power of the burgers. She put them in her kitchen cupboard and left for Thailand for a year. The second she got back home, she checked on the burgers, only to find them missing—but because they were thrown away by an unidentified party.
“That was in May. In the summer, I was back at SCAD, and I was like, you know what? I’m gonna revisit the cheeseburger,” she says.
She glued the date onto the burger in rhinestones and did the same with a Twinkie. She left them alone for ten years, either in her purse, her cabinet, or her wine rack.
“The most damage they’ve experienced is just from being in my bag,” she says, “like there’s little chunks missing. It’s gross because in that time, I’ve had ants and I’ve had mice. The mice didn’t go near it. They ate my underpants and not my cheeseburger.”
This Friday, see the burger and the Twinkie in all their processed glory at the opening of “FastFood?” at Location Gallery. Twenty local artists will present their work inspired by the permanence and pop culture of junk food.
When McGrory realized the burger and the Twinkie had been in existence for ten years, she instantly called Location Gallery’s director Peter Roberts to plan something commemorative.
“Last summer I was working on a boat, and when I went home at the end of July, I realized next year would make ten years,” she says. “The first thing I did was call Peter. We had to do something—it was a great opportunity.”
Roberts chose the Forsyth Farmers’ Market as the beneficiary nonprofit since the market provides real food that actually decomposes.
“That was something he went straight to,” McGrory says, “which makes perfect sense.”
At the end of the day, McGrory hopes that the exhibition will inspire its viewers to make more conscious food choices.
“I just really hope there’s cognitive dissonance looking at a piece of food that’s been in existence for ten years,” McGrory muses. “It hasn’t appreciatively changed. I hope it will give people a little pause for thought at the fact that nothing in the natural world recognizes this cheeseburger as food. We have to look at mold and mildew as something that’s natural.”