Warning: With 55 local artworks all about what we eat crammed onto the tiny cafe's walls, the inaugural FoodArt Invitational might make you hungry.
At Seattle’s Joe Bar, you can get a slice of pizza sandwiched inside a hamburger on top of a waffle cone, held triumphantly aloft against an azure sky. You can get a whole bunch of slices topped with pepperoni, already pulled apart for easy eating and mingling in a friendly way, with a little tasty Salvador Dali–style meltiness here and there. You can also get a whole pie that’s being torn apart by hungry wolves.
The Capitol Hill cafe doesn’t serve real pizza — it serves coffee, beer and wine, and crêpes. The pizza hangs on the walls as part of the inaugural FoodArt Invitational, joining 52 other works by local artists on the theme of what we eat (or, in one case, what Jesus would eat). The new exhibit, hung salon-style, has overtaken tiny Joe Bar’s walls, creeping up the side stairways and into the “Being John Malkovich”–proportioned balconies.
Oysters — including a huge beauty of an Olympia by Rachel Maxi — are another theme. Doughnuts and cakes are also apparently particularly inspirational. Curator Jeremy Buben says the art’s about “foods that make people happy… I don’t think anyone tackled any challenging topics. Everything’s pretty light and bright.” But Maxi’s gorgeously lush oyster is somehow somber — you get the sense that as you consider it, it might be considering you. Then there’s Jesus, who, in a diptych entitled “Guilty/Pleasure” by David Teichner, is enjoying a hot dog in an unholy way.
Some of the works may inspire cravings. Kristen Reitz-Green’s oversized, lusciously hyper-realistic PB&J — entitled “Like Mom Used to Make” — hangs above the counter. Looking up at it, the barista says they might have to bring back the crêpes with the same filling that they used to serve. On the cafe’s west wall, Reitz-Green’s equally enormous “Double Stack with Cheese” might lead the mind right up the block to the DeLuxe. (But have a crêpe — the buckwheat ones, delicate yet also hearty, are especially good.)
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FoodArt’s art about food achieves hilarity, gets weird, provokes contemplation, and more. Terry Leness is making work “based on her personal history of disappointing cakes and missed celebrations,” according to her artist’s bio. Her half-chocolate, half-white cake in the exhibit, brightly alluring but also subtly shadowed, is one that bit back — entitled “In All Fairness,” it’s about the time she had to share a birthday cake with her brother. He got the chocolate side.
Buben’s interest in the subject began when he was in Fort Worth, Texas, three years ago for his sister’s wedding. He went to the Amon Carter Museum and saw the Art Institute of Chicago show “Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine.” He started collecting art about food, cramming his studio apartment full; he eventually hopes to open a gallery devoted to the genre. Curating the FoodArt Invitational is his first foray toward that end.
And, in terms of kitchen cred, Buben has worked as a line cook at West Seattle’s excellent Spring Hill (now Ma’ono).
The opening reception for FoodArt is tonight, Thursday, April 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. Local chef/artist Zachary Pacleb will serve a tisane of blackberry leaves and madrone bark, plus seeded crackers with fermented pine nut and a rhubarb and roasted-onion compote; he’ll also demonstrate a painting technique he’s developed using carbonized kitchen remnants. The reception is free and open to all.
FoodArt is at Joe Bar (810 E. Roy St., Seattle; 206-324-0407) through Sunday, May 7, with an artists’ reception on Thursday, April 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.