Fornacalia, the title of Greta Alfaro's exhibition at Cooke Latham Gallery, takes its name from the Roman festival held in honour of Fornax, the goddess of the bread oven. The work is a response to the gallery space which was part of a large 19th century bakery, supplying Victorian London with bread. Having grown up the daughter and granddaughter of a baker, Alfaro's installation reflects on the significance of bread; that most basic and yet metaphorically loaded of food stuffs.
Fornacalia maps the changing role of the baker from a predominantly female ritualistic position to the male-run mass production that was ushered in with Industrialization. The history of bread is also the history of women and the loss of agency that was synonymous with mechanization. Historically the act of bread making has been viewed as a daily miracle and in much of the world its making was accompanied by prayer and the oven compared to the womb. Greta Alfaro's work addresses the viewer as a contemporary consumer, acknowledging the loss of the 'miraculous' that has taken place through mass production.
In Greta Alfaro's world bread is a signifier of social change and the oven is an agent of transformation. The baker and artist become analogous as creators, taking raw material and making something 'other'. There is hope and poetry in Alfaro's new series. It confronts us with the realities of a capitalist consumerist society but also hints at the possibility of change. In the words of Alfaro 'The night is the realm of the baker and of the witch'.