Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pamela Talese's Sugar & Fat: from rusting iron to colorful calories


A sweet show: Pamela with Gumdrops (left) and Billy's Cupcakes (right)
If you glance back through this blog you'll note that I'm a huge contemporary art fan – the weirder and more subversive, the better. But I do appreciate a good still life, especially if its weird, subversive, or makes me want to eat it.  That seemed to be the gut sentiment of the enthused crowd who gathered in the lobby of a Greenwich Village apartment building to view "Sugar and Fat" by New York painter Pamela Talese.

Cheese and Hermes Scarf: Had even the most vegan diehards dreaming of brie and crackers. OK, maybe not vegans ... 
The paintings featured some iconic New York sweets and treats, offset by unusual backdrops to give them a this-is-Talese-not-Thiebaud twist. Plates of mini-cupcakes disappeared in a New York nanosecond (the Oreos lingered), and many people were mesmerized by the buttery slice of brie in "Cheese and Hermes Scarf." It was the first of the 19 small paintings to get the red sticker, even though you could have scarfed a boatload of the real thing for the listed price of $1700. Speaking of scarves, the caption read "... it helped me realize the true artistry of Hermes Scarf design."


I first Pamela on her typical commute - on a folding bicycle. She flagged me down on the way to her studio in Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she'd often park her bike trailer to paint ships, rusting iron and other "patina opportunitues" en plein air.  Here's a sample of her maritime oeuvre:

The Matthew Tibbetts in Dry Dock: part of Pamela's extensive, inedible oeuvre. 
If you read her bio, you might deduce that ships and rust are an antidote to her sartorial past in fashion, magazine design and interior design. In Sugar and Fat, there's a spoonful that past sprinkled in almost every painting, where the calorific main event is paired with contrasting fabric and found object backgrounds.

Crazy Donuts
La Maison de Macaron: a nod to Damien Hirst
Capezzoli di Venere: or  Sicilian Venus's Nipples, a hot favorite in Sicily
Keith's Fudge Tart: "I wanted to see how crazy I could make myself painting three levels of translucency.This fudge tart, sent to me by a friend, contains about 2500 calories." 
The second most minimal painting next to the Hirst homage: Gumdrops.
A closer look at Billy's Cupcakes, from the much-loved store in Chelsea. Note the painstakingly reproduced cloth "from a store in Broadway."

Pamela's long time friend Robinson orchestrated the show.
While doing some calorific "research" of my own for iPad magazine Dinks NY I came across Delmonico's famous Baked Alaska. This is an ice cream extravaganza covered in minarets of piped meringue, resembling a kind of burlesque bathing cap. I suggested it as an item for the series, but Pamela set me straight - she not only paints en plein air (in the open air), she paints the real deal, not from photographs.

Apparently, even with still life, something is always moving, and capturing that movement is what makes the stillness come alive. The "sitting" would have required several canisters of liquid nitrogen or a refrigerator full of duplicates. It was easier for me to just eat it and tell her about it for Sugar & Fat II! 


Delmonico Restaurant's famous Baked Alaska - it won't sit still long enough to be painted. Photo: Valerio_B on flickr. He's got willpower - I'd already eaten it before I got a chance to shoot it! 

SUGAR & FAT will be on view in the lobby of 350 Bleecker Street (between 10th Street and Charles) from October 25th through the end of November. Should you find yourself in the neighborhood, do stop in. There will be a reception on October 25th from 6pm-8pm, and in all likelihood, cupcakes will be served.

Related links:

Artist finds Safe Harbor in Brooklyn




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