Cake as Influence

Thiebaud cake A. Steeter cake Oldenburg floor cake Cake Girls
Couture cake Thiebaud wedding cake M. Braun cake Trend de la Creme blog image
Cupcake color Architecture as cake Julia Jacquette cake painting

From top left: Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Let Them Eat Cake; Painted Bird Cake, (a real cake) by Amanda Streeter; Floor Cake by Claes Oldenburg; and couture wedding cakes. Second row: another couture wedding cake; Wedding Cake by Wayne Thiebaud; a real wedding cake by Margaret Braun; a great blog entry from Trend de la Cremé pairing runway fashion with couture cakes; Third row: cupcakes by Dozen Cupcakes; architecture as cake; and Julia Jacquette’s painting White on White (Thirty-six sections of wedding cake, swans).

I started looking at wedding cakes eight years ago for decoration ideas. It seemed an obvious reference for me as slip-trailing (squeezing liquid clay through a bulb syringe) is the clay equivalent to cake-decorating.

I’m not sure when I first came across Wayne Thiebaud’s pastry paintings from the ’60s, but I love them. If I could paint, that is the style and possibly content I would choose. I enjoy his fantastical and exaggerated use of color (hard shadows of electric pink) and style that reminds me of the vintage ads I like. The paint is thick, and somehow simultaneously gestural and precise. Some of my influences are abstract ideas, and that last sentence would be a good example of something I see [in a Thiebaud painting, for example] that I would like to emulate in my work —a feeling, a presence.

Kieffer tile trioI also just like the word, cake (the title of and text on the left tile, actually). I am drawn to the sound of certain words (Who doesn’t like to say rutabaga?), especially if they can have different meanings and contexts. I don’t know where I picked this up, but I sometimes use it as an expression to mean, “exceedingly lucky”. As in, “He is in a pretty cake situation since he married a millionaire,” for example.

I chose Claus Oldenburg’s Floor Cake to show because it fits today’s theme, and because I am drawn to his sculpture and drawing for making real, hard forms soft and humorous. Both elements I look to capture in my own work. Kieffer Soft Treasure box

It may or may not be obvious from the images I chose above (and from my last post below): many of my influences overlap. In these things, I see hard and soft lines, humor, form, context and content. A couture dress looks like a tiered cake which looks like a Victorian home, which could be a covered jar—or maybe that’s just me. As I’ve said before, we artists are the blenders of the disparate creating the unified.

Influences: A Pictorial

Oribe ware George Nelson bubble lamps Martin Johnson Heade
Bombe highboy Vintage playing cards Mucha Job Tord Boontje
W.Thiebaud Cakes Fruit crate ad 
Haute couture KleinReid birdcages Vintage wallpaper Louis Majorelle Botanical drawing

From top left: Oribe/Mino ware, George Nelson bubble lamps, Martin Johnson Heade paintings; (2nd row) bombé chests, imagery from vintage playing cards, Alphonse Mucha illustrations, Tord Boontje design, architecture and Victorian homes; (3rd row) Wayne Thiebaud pastry paintings, early 1900s fruit crate labels, Islamic brass forms and patterns; (4th row) haute couture, KleinReid design, vintage wallpaper patterns and textures, art nouveau design, lines and patterns –like Louis Marjorelle, and botanical drawings.

Influence—Sugar

Ivan Day sugar birdbasket Last weekend (4/12-13), I was a participant in a two-part symposium held in conjunction with an exhibition at Harvard University’s Busch-Reisinger Museum called “A Taste of Power: 18th-Century German Porcelain for the Table“. The second symposium day, entitled “Extravagance and Drama“, entailed demonstrations and image presentations by me and two other artists, Gala Sorkina and Nicole Peters, at Harvard’s ceramics studio. “Tables of Content” was the title for the first day of symposium lectures, and while I think we were great, that day’s lectures were superb.

Two of my three favorites were about the transition of tableware vessels and sculptures made of sugar and silver into porcelain. This huge part of history was completely new to me. Maureen Cassidy-Geiger of the Arnhold and Frick Collections gave a wonderful lecture called “Sugar and Silver into Porcelain: The Conditorei and Court Dining in Dresden under Augustus III“. (She pointed out that since sugar can’t last and silver could be melted down, the porcelain vessels were often all that remained of this stage of history.)

Ivan Day Chesterfield Dessert2These first two images though come from Ivan Day who gave a lecture called “The Edible Edifice: Sculpture for the 18th-Century Dessert Table“. Mr. Day is an expert in the field of British and European culinary history, and not only does he know it, he makes it! He made the baskets, bird and flowers above from sugar “like in olden times”, shaping the sugar paste like clay. Though he explained to me that the sugar is actually easier to use than porcelain. (I’m still absorbing that fact.) Ivan also made the filigree, brightly colored centerpiece above and white, columned building featured on this table, from sugar. Amazing. I took lots of notes, and am excited for this new discovery of these old forms and shapes. (I was very flattered and honored that he came to watch us demonstrate the next day.)
Valerie Steele corset imageThe third of my favorites was by Valerie Steele of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). She presented images and ideas from an exhibit she curated last year called “Fashioning Luxury“. She gave a wonderful overview of the history of haute couture, gender and class in clothing, and explanations of curious phrases like “popu-lux”, “mass-tige” and “stealth luxury”. Among the myriad of books she has written, one is on corsets (The Corset: A Cultural History), she was described in The Washington Post as one of “fashion’s brainiest women”, and on her blog, she has an interview with John Galliano. Need I say more?

Influence—Haute couture

I am trying to get my head and hands back into the studio after a full, almost six weeks of craft shows, workshops, and travel. This is how it begins for me:  image perusal and drawing.

Dior blue dress 180  Dior blue dress

Clothing (vintage, Elizabethan to haute couture) has been an influence on my work for many years. I appreciate the theatricality, imagination, and textures of couture. They are living, life-size sculptures to me. The blue dress by Dior (above) is purposely flipped because this view changes the context. It can now be imagined as a vase, for instance. The crazy pink number (below left) is by John Galliano for Dior and references, “Joan of Arc, Siouxsie Sioux, and Botticelli”. Now that’s a great combination. I think all artists’ brains are like high-test blenders. We put in the things we love, press frappé, and something amazing is designed and created.  This second dress (stunning!) is based on “origami-style pleats,” also by Galliano for Dior.

Galliano pink dress  Galliano origami dress

Galliano lantern headdressesThe origami dress and “lantern-laden headdress” (left) were “influenced by a trip he took to Japan.” I can take from these the asymmetry, shape, color, texture, and curiosity. The final two dresses (below) are made of balloons. Texture, fantastical style, craftsmanship…enough said, I’m off to do my own brain blending.Balloon dresses