Through a photorealistic sense of nostalgia, Andy Dreamingwolf creates works that examine the paralleled history of the pharmaceutical and soft drink industries. Between the 1850s and the turn of the twentieth century, the pharmaceutical industry was comprised of traditional botanicals and was beginning to develop new synthetic drugs. At the same time, soda began to be mass marketed. Originally sold for medicinal purposes as early as the 1770s, soft drinks were primarily handled by pharmacists because of their experience in chemistry and medicine. The pharmacists would mix up concoctions of cocaine and caffeine with carbonated water to treat ailments such as headaches. This led to the drugstore soda fountain, where the drinks turned away from medicinal uses and became a popular refreshment. Dreamingwolf states that his interest in the two industries concern the “circumstances, be it social, a hardship, or addiction itself, that bring an individual to self-medicate are easily realized when products, tailor made to profit off ones ails and sorrows are manufactured.”
There are also connotations of class mixed in as well: “Pop lent itself as a metaphor of privilege, of the white picket fence American dream family, a lust to be socially accepted, and a projected smile regardless of one’s inner state.” As the pharmaceutical and soda industry are currently being examined for both their health risks and ease of access, Dreamingwolf reminds us of their intertwined history and asks us reflect on how we, as a society, too easily self-medicate.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website