Whether it’s the artistic tradition of Still Life painting or the social tradition of artists sitting around a dinner table sharing a roast chicken and Beaujolais, good food is like art’s shadow; it’s always there.
In some cases, as in Vik Muniz, it’s there.
Art Consultant, Lydia Barry Kutko introduced me to Muniz, who recreates images – from masterpieces to cultural emblems – with dust, wire, sugar, jam, and various refuse. That’s an image of Jackson Pollack famously throwing paint, re-imagined in spattered Bosco Chocolate syrup.
(Between those sentences lies tomes of art criticism, psychology, sociology and anthropology, as in, artist preserves in chocolate a monumental bend in the art history road, chocolate being our culture’s short form of sex, excess, decadence, and hedonism. Only this chocolate isn’t Valrhona; it’s the cheap stuff kids squeeze from a plastic bottle. Pollack chose Laytex paint over fine oils; Muniz chooses Bosco over Ghiradelli.)
Kutko lives in New York, and works with collectors there and in Boston, but watch for her imprint on the Cape Ann Art Community. Her family is here; she loves it here, and she imagines the peninsula once again as an X on a collector’s map.
Remember, starting with Fitz Henry Lane, Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, Leon Krull, George Demetrios, Walter Hancock, artists followed each other up the coast to Cape Ann. They summered together. They stayed for a while. Their works reflect our rocky coves, a fish town’s architecture, and Northeast light. Older Rockport and Lanesville residents remember posing for the artists. Folly Cove is speckled with the houses they owned or rented. My own home was built by Ellen Day Hale, an artist from the Boston School whose self portrait hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Ellen, her brother Phillip Hale, and his wife Lillian Hale, all summered and painted here.
Kutko wants to see an art community rise here again. She wants the young artists painting here to find art collectors and dealers, (and cheap rent, always a real concern). She wants there to be an active critical voice – maybe someone writing for the Gloucester Times? – because, as Clement Greenberg cemented Expressionism, it takes a critical eye observing work from the outside to say, “this is something.”
It would be nice to go into the next hundred years famous for our lobster rolls and our painters again, but not artists necessarily re-hashing schooners and views, better to have artists expressing selves living on Cape Ann in 2012.
After all, Pollack himself said, “Modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age that we’re living in.”
Kutko and I met at a recent Buche de Noel party, and had a short, fresh conversation while sharing her delicious rugelach and the woodsy Buche. Dynamic, allegra, Kutko speaks with a New Yorker’s speed and a passionate professional’s authority about modern art and its social significance. Our chat was brief but weighty; I don’t think Kutko is capable of small-talk, or containing her passion for and knowledge of art. She sent me an email with the Muniz link and her rugelach recipe, once more illuminating the art and food relationship. She’s a thinker who never quits:
I can’t help but think of the connection between my slavishly following a recipe and Muniz’s copying of famous works of art. At what point does the baker move from copycat to creative act? At what point does the artist, here Vik Muniz, do the same? As I was rolling out and filling the dough, I remember a moment when it was no longer Ina’s hand but my own — I was aiming to transcend formula.
Ina Garten’s Rugelach, via Lydia Kutko
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.
On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.