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Artist's Notebook

Old recipes, Modern Life: an installation mapping identity and personal history

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The following are photographs of the installation piece I made for “conceptual drawing class” here at graduate school out of the vintage recipe book that writer Dianna Marder generously gave me for a gift. (Don’t worry Dianna, the installed pieces are color copies, not the original!) The piece goes between my apartment kitchen and the studios in the art school. The first one is in my kitchen at the dorm . . . basically it’s a piece showing the handwritten recipe page as aesthetic object inspired by the essay “Reading the Language of Objects” by M. Anna Fariello. Fariello explains that an aesthetic object is a document (a map of the maker’s marks, and in this case, with particularities of handwriting, crossings-out and changes, fingerprints, etc.) a metaphor (since it is recipes, for sustenance physical and emotional) and also what she calls a “socially integrated object,” meaning an art object that is not set apart and rarified but rather part of the social fabric and of daily ritual (in this case, cooking.) As such it is capable of resonating on a deep emotional and spiritual level. With artistic intent of course. Enjoy! Captions below each photo explain a bit more . . .

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At home, recipes are recipes, but the second piece is installed as a fragment to draw attention to the page, not just the sentimentality of “grandma’s recipe” and what’s written on the page.
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In between the recipes I painted images directly on the walls from the recipe pages, in particular the women’s names who are credited for recipes, so often anonymous and overlooked, here writ large and with some of the page details.
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I was careful to cut out the details of things like the threads of the binding coming unraveled, to call attention to the details of the visual image.
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They’re tiny on purpose as these are things often overlooked, constrained to the domestic world and not often considered apart from their use. I liked that you could miss them, and then when you saw them, they were fun to find, like following clues.
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This one is on a door leading to an outdoor corridor . . .
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Once you see them, they lead you along . . .
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A few are blank pages to call attention to the visual language of the page - the underlying grid, the color of the aging paper, and the emotional response you have. For me it’s possibility in the blank page . . . the emptiness of ancestors gone . . .
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They were placed outside and inside elevators . . . a quote from my statement: “The handwritten recipe page imparts meaning through implied or actual experience and process, echoes life’s impermanence, measures and maps a personal history over time that enriches a sense of identity, evolves through experimentation and changes in taste and availability of materials and produces a visceral connection to ancestors perhaps long gone.”
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This one is one of my favorites. It’s for devil’s food and I hung it on the soda machine but it was a subconscious decision. My instructor pointed out the irony.
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Wonderful contrast of aging pop machine and aging old recipe . . .
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Once we get to the building with the art studios in it, I start to draw out the visual language of the recipes because now that we have left home and gone to the studio, the recipe is not just a recipe but becomes what I make from it. People stole them regularly. They are beautiful . . and the stealing became part of the piece - how the recipes were coveted and went out into the community . . .
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Once in the art building the focus changed. Now the wall paintings draw imagery from the pages but call attention to the visual language more and more. They evolve as art evolves.

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Once inside the actual art studios, I started pulling drawing elements from the page, like this script “p” so evocative, and the negative space of the rectangle that references the recipe page without showing it. This is about four feet high.
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Here’s my last wall drawing, trying to evoke the old recipe without copying it . . .
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This is a detail shot of the wall drawing. And a quote from “Reading the Language of Objects”: “Compressed inside its small material self, the genie of meaning, captured by the artist, is released by a viewer who willingly participates in the mysteries of making.” Coming soon: new paintings and a baking performance piece!







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Jellypress is about Nancy and Laura having fun with what they love: old recipes, art, and ideas--as we find them in our modern lives.  We met...read more »

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Yes, all the artwork on Jellypress was done by Nancy. Go to the Jellypress Art page

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyTo find out about Laura's search for a long lost family recipe, click [ What's a Jellypress?

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