This recent work inspired by a visit with Michelle Gayer of The Salty Tart bakery. Her approach to baking is to use only pure ingredients and no additional decoration beyond the shape of each delicious morsel. That was a challenge for me, as a surface designer!
Pared down to essential elements, the text of a menu briefly describes an experience yet to happen. The story of Babette, who enters a community as a stranger and becomes a treasured member, is the inspiration for this menu for life. Perceptions of difference are shrouded with bias and embellished by memory, and this work asks, what are the true ingredients?
The text for Babette's Feast, penned in 1958 by Isak Dinesen seemed appropriate in this age of emigration and difference. Babette, a French Communard, escapes political persecution and flees to Norway. The first edit pared down to the true essence of the story, a description of the key ingredients. The second edit removed references to the dominant male figures, and direct religious references, and further honed in on the three women. What I wanted to accomplish was to uncover the desirable characteristics of these women.
Michelle donated a pastry 'couche' (french for blanket), that had been lovingly used and saturated with flour, salt, and butter. I printed the selected text, and then cut and folded back the very essential ingredients for a full and productive life. I challenge the viewer to look from both sides, and through the cloth, to see the words and patterns that surpass cultural and political differences.
This piece is on view in the exhibition "Artists in the Kitchen" at Textile Center through May 19.