Chefs Take an Artist to Work Day

The latest exhibit at the Textile Center celebrates women in culinary and creative fields for a collaboration unlike any other

Illustrator: Claudia Dube

If you’re a fan of food and fine art, it would be in your best interest to head over to the Textile Center before May 19 to experience their newest gallery that celebrates local women in culinary and creative careers—just make sure to eat before checking it out.

“Artists in the Kitchen” was inspired by exactly what it sounds like—as stated on the Textile Center’s website, “Beginning Dec. 27, 2017, 50 all-women artist/chef-restaurateur teams met to join forces… whereby chefs are inspiring the artists to produce new artworks, culminating in the exhibition.” Artists were challenged with using varied textiles to craft a piece that encompasses the diverse backgrounds and values of those they were paired with.

At first glance, the exhibition seemed consistent with what one would expect from a fabric-based gallery, with quilts, weavings, and collages decorating the white walls. However, the pieces displayed were not just creative takes on menu items or the storefronts of different restaurants. Rather, each artist took a unique approach to what they were tasked by using unthinkable resources to represent the takeaways from their partnership. From fancy chocolates to pillow-shaped prosciutto, it’s clear that all of the artists had vastly different yet equally beautiful results from the assignment.

Chef Susan Muskat of Moose and Sadie’s zeroed in on the moments in history that crafted her culinary journey. With artist Marcia Haffmans, she explained the “voracious appetite for spices” that the Dutch East India Company had in 1600. As a result, Haffmans arranged cinnamon sticks in a formation that extended from floor to ceiling to represent Chef Muskat’s favoritism of spices today.

I found myself stifling my gasp when I turned the corner to what was undoubtedly an ode to Glam Doll Donuts. Artist Jennifer Davis was “over the moon” when she learned of her pairing, eager to craft a piece that highlighted the uber-girly aesthetic of their Minneapolis shops. Davis chose to invent her own donut “flavors” arranged in a grid using paints that mimicked the vibrant atmosphere of the iconic brand.

A basket of multi-colored Hershey Kiss-shaped chocolates made from copper wire were inspired by Chef Mary Leonard of Chocolat Céleste. Leonard, who reported having a history in textile design, said that her background has inspired much of the printing on her designer chocolates.

One of the more straightforward pieces came from Anne Kramer and Jametta Raspberry, who adhered cooking utensils to a board and mod-podged words intended to “depict a dismantling of traditional archetypes, call out biased practices, and stand to be recognized.” Phrases such as “PATRIARCHY SOUFFLE” and “DEMETER SALAD” brought a stark contrast to the charcoal background. 

Artist Kristin Hoelscher-Schacker wanted to bring audiences back to the roots of agriculture—literally. As stated by Hoelscher-Schacker herself, “The foundation of both farming and cooking is soil health… Farmers put their hands in soil to construct a product; chefs use their hands to deconstruct and transform these products.” To capitalize on the importance of soil health, she illustrated a gardener clutching black soil with their hands tangled in stringy roots.

It seemed as though many spectators at the exhibit were particularly drawn to a quilt by Lindsay Rhyner that was decorated with dishes from Homegrown Foods—all of which were crafted with fabrics, plastic materials, and beads that brought the menu to life. For one item, Rhyner used what looked like fishing lures, sequins, and velvet to depict seafood and vegetables carefully arranged on a black dish.

Artist Maggie Thompson, who worked closely alongside Amy Brown and Heidi Andermack of Chowgirls Killer Catering, took the most literal, simple, and fun approach to the project. After reading their cookbook and touring their facilities, Thompson settled on a prosciutto-wrapped arugula body pillow to put on display. In the piece description, Thompson stated it was her intention for one to be able to “insert yourself into the piece and become what you eat.”

If you’re looking to get a glimpse of the exhibition, “Artists in the Kitchen” will remain on display at the Textile Center until Saturday, May 19. Additionally, four of the artist-chef/restaurateur teams will be hosting a panel discussion on Thursday, April 26; tickets are $15 per person. Even if you aren’t an art or culinary connoisseur, perhaps you can walk away from the exhibit with a few restaurants to try out before you graduate.