more than

Christian Van Minnen “Great Western Buffet” 2012, oil on canvas

I found myself stunned and captivated by this new work by Christian van Minnen, a painter who I met a while back when he still lived in Seattle and was part of a drawing event with me. He was also included in the still life show that I gushed over a couple years ago. Maybe his work strikes you first as grotesque, maybe first as beautifully painted, but I wonder if, along with me, you are held in a delicate balance between being repulsed and attracted. I think CvM strikes that balance more successfully than most artists who tread this territory. And there are plenty of additional details to round out the mental landscape– flags and cartoonish beaks, the smoke that makes me simultaneously sigh with autumnal daydreams, marvel at the painter’s magic with texture, and become eerily aware of roasted meat’s living-animal precedent. (Click image for a larger view)



I walked into this exhibition this morning and gasped. I wasn’t sure whether to pee my pants or cry. Which is appropriate, considering that the show is designed around still life as sensual catalyst. It probably also figures into one of my current obsessions– linking visual/media input to food. I find it really helpful to compare my discipline with others in order to understand it better. So… I’ve been noticing that we all seem to have our “doritos” version of visual culture: quick, easy satisfaction that hits the major taste buds and achieves an immediate, but temporary, escape. I find myself wanting to name some culprits, but I ask you to determine yours. What are the quick fixes that do not satisfy for long? And what is your whole-grain-bread-from-flour-milled-by-your-friend-with-goat-cheese-made-from-the-milk-of-the-goat-that-is-munching-grass-outside-your-door version? Visual input as nourishment or empty calories.

So yes, this show.

I am determined to spend more time with it, because the nourishment is rich. Hanging there are disciplined observations from a different time scope than I usually inhabit. Delicate, laborious, slow study yields both the terror and beauty of fecundity… the ever presence of death as we examine life.

If you are in Seattle, the illustrious SOIL is also holding their annual auction, but you can do it all, right? I’m going to attempt it! If you can’t make the opening, the show is up for two months, and wouldn’t suffer from quiet intake. Here’s curator Katie Kresser (also illustrious) describing Ripe:

During Fall quarter 2010 the SPAC Gallery is proud to present Ripe, a group show featuring contemporary experiments in the genre of still life. Good still life has always been about sensuality. In our world of synthetic materials and virtual realities, still life can remind us of the beauty that’s painful and bloody: birth, woundedness, ecstasy, transformation, decay and death.

Artists featured include:
Zack Bent, Eric Elliott, Linda Hutchins, Gregory Jacobsen, Steve Levin, Christian van Minnen and Natalie St. Martin.

Ripe: Juicy Contemporary Still Life: October 11 – December 3
Opening reception will be held Friday evening, October 15 from 7:00-9:00pm.

{The SPAC Gallery is open 9:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday}

feasting and foraging

(photo via Miss Manitach)

There are countless indepth blogs about food, in every direction, of course, but my life has been intersecting with food in new ways lately, so I thought I’d slip a post in.  The trouble is, the more I think about food, the more there is to think about.

A week or so ago, I was treated to not one, but two extravagant dinners that certainly jumped the usual pattern of our lives.  At this point, because of budget and pragmatics, we rarely splurge on amazing meals out– something that both Zack and I have a confessed weakness for.  (If you’ve ever taken small children to restaurants, or arranged babysitters for bedtime, you know the drawbacks begin to outweigh the benefits.)  Instead, Zack has been making the lion’s share of our dinners at home (and they’re fantastic…more on this in a minute).  So when Joey Veltkamp invited me to be an artist at the second New Guard dinner, I was pleased as punch (how pleased is Punch?) to say yes, and to take food-lover Zack along on the day after his birthday.  The entire event was so magical– a candle-fire lit room above bustling Pike street, lots of wine and great conversation with people who began the night as strangers, a stunning array of dishes rolled out by Eliot Guthrie family style, and the crooning of Kate Tucker.  The very next night held another birthday gift for Zack; my parents took us to a dinner inspired by the wines of local boutique winery William Church, designed by culinary arts faculty and students at Lake Washington Technical College, where my mom is an administrator and teacher.  The atmosphere was more pedestrian than the New Guard, but the tears shining in the corners of students’ eyes as they were given a standing ovation for the meal were priceless.  Having the winemakers in attendance, and providing introductions for each wine, was a great treat as well.

Every culture seems to know that celebration works best with food.  But what of the every day?  As we sat down to dinner the other night, my oldest son told us he just wanted to smell the piece of pizza that had just been set in front of him.  Zack had made pizza dough out of a no-knead sourdough bread recipe, and topped it with potatoes, greens, carmelized onions and cheese, and it was, truly, a beautiful fragrance and sight.  We talked about how cool food is– that it’s a treat for your sense of taste, but also your senses of smell and sight and touch.  To top it all, eating can be a profoundly social act, a real love gift, which is something we experience almost every day from Zack’s hands.  Left to my own devices, even though I’m a devoted appreciator of food, I can slip into a more pragmatic habit, thawing frozen edamame and chomping leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts just to get some protein in and get on with the day.

Another side of things that is revolutionizing my idea of food is the benefit of local ingredients.  It’s one of those topics that is an obvious “ought to” when you think about the transportation of food from all over the earth in terms of carbon footprint.  But there are so many “ought to”s in our lives that we can’t keep up with them.  This summer, we signed up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share, and just totally got spoiled by beautiful, fresh local vegetables fruits and herbs.  My guilty conscience has turned into a strong preference for food that is seasonal and freshly picked.  It’s no accident that we have to eat living things to keep living– a constant shift of life source from one creature to another.  Even vegans take in the life of plants to support their own lives.  And the closer we can get to the healthy living thing, the better.  We have a few boxes of greens planted outside our back door, and I love taking a leaf right off of a plant and eating it.  I swear its goodness is mainlined to my system.  Talk about local.  And then there’s Zack’s new obsession with foraging… but I’m already long-winded on a topic that others are far more eloquently covering.

(I’ve realized lately, with some sheepishness, that I’m not a purist… on almost anything, actually… but I love when logic and wisdom intersect with a life lived, and I’m always in pursuit of that type of inspiration.  I guess I’m much better at acting out of convictions that are rooted in actualities than cerebral suggestions or guilt-induced resolutions for right-living.)