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Interview Wed Aug 24 2011
The Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a swanky event last Thursday called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where eight Chicago's top chefs and artists were paired up to create a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, The Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.
The results were delicious, both gastronomically and visually. Between finger foods and swigs of champagne, I spoke with each of the artists about their experiences working on this project. (Read interviews with the chefs over in Drive-Thru.)
"It was sort of like a blind date -- they set Stephanie [Izard] and I up to meet. It was their idea to put the two of us together... something about bold colors and bold flavors. After our initial meeting, Stephanie was gracious enough to have us at the restaurant and I ate a ton of good food and got an idea of what she does. Then she came to the studio and looked around and saw what I do. What I did was I looked at her website and I made a list of all the ingredients -- like, major things she uses -- and I kinda tried to incorporate them into the painting in a pretty abstract way, using Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the Italian painter who did portraits made of fruits, as inspiration. I was thinking about that, in a way -- making a head. I've been doing these paintings lately that are really mostly hair -- I mean, look at the back of her hair. [he gestures toward Stephanie] It looks just like one of my paintings. So it kinda all just fit together."
"I only make ceramics generally for special occasions because it involves working collaboratively with my neighbor, Nancy Parker, who is a professional ceramics artist. And I'm a painter. And my paintings are large scale -- they're kind of architectural and they're kind of public. They demand a presentational, big public space. The ceramics that I make are on a much more intimate scale, and a lot of them have use value. You can hang this platter on the wall; it's got holes in the back. But you could also use it. And the thing that I like about ceramics is their intimacy and their proximity to your body. And I also like doing this collaborative thing with my neighbor who has a son the same age and that's how we met. It takes me outside my practice as a painter, I go someplace else, and it has a different relationship to the viewer. And then I also just find ceramic as a material incredibly sensuous.
"One of the things I'm interested in about paint is the way color reflects light and the way reflective light can activate a space. Metallic paint, I think, makes people feel happy. It's sparkly. People wear sequins and metallic things on special occasions because they're festive and they lift your spirits. So anyway, I really like the material of ceramic. It's a real natural crossover medium for a painter. And then there's the obvious correlation I suppose of eating food off of it, so it works for this show."
"For the past maybe year and a half, the CAC has really helped me get my name out there. I graduated from college in 2009, came back home, here, and started trying to show my work. I was looking for a studio so I joined the CAC. Then, I was in the Art Loop Open -- I had a big cake piece in there that made it to the top ten. The CAC loved it, and they got me a Pop Up gallery in the Loop. I had a show there that was all bakery-inspired and they've just been supporting me the whole way. I stayed in touch with them and they asked me to do this show because they were familiar with my sweet-themed work. They've been really good with just helping me get exposure. I have a sculpture background but I took a cake-decorating course in college just for fun. I was trying to think of how to mix the two things. I started out with cakes, and then they got larger and they turned into photographs and so it's just been kinda a running theme in my work for the past few years. They paired me up with Hillary [Blanchard-Rikower] because she's a pastry chef. It's a perfect fit. I was honored because everyone else participating in this event is really established. They've shown internationally, they've been around. And I'm just really new to it."
"They [the CAC] called me up. They had no idea that I was into painting chefs. I've been into painting chefs since 1982, oddly enough. I love chefs. I paint series of people: criminals, opera people, musicians, chefs! So they hooked me up with Koren Grieveson. She came to my studio. She's so cool! She brought her tools in a toolbox. She showed me all these tools, like one for injecting lard into a roast. Heavy duty cooking. And I shot a bunch of mug shots of her against the wall and did a painting of her. I like painting chefs. They work much harder than artists. Well, they're artists. But they only get credit for what they did 48 hours ago. They work so hard and their work is beautiful. "
(Anderson talks with his hands, so to get a better version of the above interview, check out the video below!)