A recent exhibit at the Textile Center paired 50 teams of chefs and artists to inspire visual art pieces that both celebrated and challenged the way we think about food. At a panel discussion, teams discussed the collaboration.
Stephanie Hansen worked with artist Marjorie Fedyszyn. They discussed how difficult it is at their age for bodies to bounce back when they gain weight. Fedyszyn says, “I discovered that five pounds of muscle is about the size of your hand, but five pounds of fat is about the size of three of your hands. I also looked into what is going on in our bodies, how our metabolisms work, and how we slow down when we are aging.”
For her artistic rendering, Fedyszyn created a platter on which sits a representation of 14 pounds of fat depicted in fabric. “The ritual of eating didn’t really come into the making of that piece. It was more about standing in our collective skin.”
Rachel and Jenny Breen are sisters. Although Rachel is familiar with Jenny’s food, she decided she needed to listen to her sister talk about her relationship with food as she cooked. Rachel decided to represent Jenny’s larger work with food, rather than focusing on a particular meal.
“Rachel captured it well as a giant glow in the frying pan. That kind of sums it up for me,” says Jenny Breen. “We grew up in a house where issues of justice were central. I felt that whatever I did had to do with making the world a better place. I think that food can do that.”
Artist Carmen Gutiérrez Bolger and food writer Mecca Bos-Williams bonded over their backgrounds. Bos-Williams is biracial and Gutiérrez Bolger is a refugee from Cuba who moved to the U.S. when she was five years old. “We both felt that we had something missing.” says Gutiérrez Bolger. “We came up with the idea of writing a menu, which is attached to my collage.”
The menu includes items from their childhood, melding Nordic-Cuban soul food together into a 13-course French format menu.
Artist Carolyn Halliday worked with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, formerly of the Splendid Table. Out of their conversations she ended up depicting Kasper’s favorite kitchen tools. Halliday used edible and kitchen items in her work, such as animal membrane and cheesecloth dyed with onions. As Kasper explains it, “Now I realize it’s the way I look at food. It’s layered. You can keep removing one example of it, and behind it, there’s more.”
Chef Brenda Langton brought to the introductory meeting Blue Doll, a squash, which inspired artist Shelly Mosman to create a still-life photograph rendered on canvas. “I think that food is medicine,” says Langton. “I never put prosciutto or pork jowl or bacon or pancetta on my vegetables. I’m offended by it. So many boy-chefs lather it on, but really, the finer things in life don’t need pancetta.”
Says panel moderator Stephanie Hansen, “It is these things —the literal fabric, and the food and the community we weave, and the people we impact. It is the intersection of all of those things that bring joy and meaning and happiness to most people’s lives.”