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Art Tue Oct 09 2012

A Well Fed Evening: CAC's Starving Artist 2012

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A sense of smell is paramount to a true food-tasting experience. Earlier that day, what began as a tickle in the back of my throat developed into a full-blown cold, one that challenged my enjoyment of the Chicago Artists' Coalition annual Starving Artist benefit. For the event, local celebrity chefs team up with local artists to craft works and eats inspired by each others' vision. Despite my own physical ailments shaping my experiences of the food, as a benefit in support of the visual arts, 2012's Starving Artist event was a success.

What does it take to run a worthwhile and eclectic artist-focused event? Well for one, the ability for guests to view and interact with a variety of different artistic practices. Rather than load the space and the evening with in-cohesive artworks, the event's organizers gave guests room to breathe and interact with the art on their own.

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Taking place both outside in a heated tent and inside the CAC space, the event allowed guests to linger and happen upon different artists' works. Collaborations included Laura Letinsky with Chef Tara Lane of the Jane Adams Hull House Museum, Jenny Kender with Chef Beverly Kim (of "Top Chef" and formerly of Bonsoiree), and Jeanne Dunning with Chef Jared Van Camp of Old Town Social and Nellcôte.

Erik Peterson's collaboration with Chef Erling Wu-Bower of Avec was visible upon first entering the CAC building. Peterson created an installation of two piñatas (one burst open, the other intact) hanging above seven silver trays covered in what one would assume would be the contents of the opened piñata: red peppers, cheese, olive oil, basil and a raw sheep head. Moving around the installation, one can view the inside of the opened piñata and see carefully placed food items like the ones seen on the trays. It is difficult to discern whether or not the installation was crafted just so or if the trays reveal the true contents of the piñata, but as a whole, the work was a sight to be seen. The installation touched upon numerous ideas of tradition at once: What does it mean to have a celebration? What does it mean to cook traditional food? Peterson's work was the strongest of the night, feeling both relevant for the purpose of the collaboration and for the evening in general.

In addition to the artist collaborations, the evening also featured non-collaborative installations in the space. In Jim Zimpel's Fish Market, multicolored doughnuts from gourmet doughnut shop Glazed and Infused were placed upon fish-shaped stands of different heights. Guests were allowed to eat the doughnuts and purchase the stands for a small fee. Unlike Peterson's installation, Zimpel's reflected on the differences between the art world and the food world. In this case, viewers were able to take the art away with them rather than just look and leave.

Zimpel's work also mimicked a common theme throughout the night: interactive and performance art. Non-traditional cheerleaders appeared from time to time on a stage to announce the next artist-chef collaboration course, elevating the works to a cheerful, celebratory degree.

Members of Industry of the Ordinary walked around the room and provided hand stamps to guests with such words as "RELIVE" or "FORGET" to describe their experiences thus far. The gesture was small, yet memorable. What does it mean to attend and savor an event? What does it mean to view art? How long does a truly great meal last in the mind of the eater? I chose the "RELIVE" stamp and had it stamped on my hand and bicep. By the next morning, my stamps were gone. Luckily, my memories of the event remain. Although memories can cloud reality, they often provide a glimpse into the past that the tangible cannot. Like a good meal or a great piece of art, although we are not able to keep the items, we still maintain memories of what we once had.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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