Art you can sink your teeth into

“Hypnotic Citrus”; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini
“Hypnotic Citrus”; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Art replicating food, art made of food, chefs making food, chefs judging food art, farmers selling food, and foodies who just wanna have fun.

Six Summit Gallery's reception and awards ceremony on Sept. 15 for "Food, Fresco, Farm, and Fotograph" is a smorgasbord of all of the above-with a singing chef thrown in for good measure.

Leo Feroleto, owner of the Ivoryton gallery, cooked up the idea of the exhibit and event. A resident of both Ivoryton and New York City he says, "Years ago they were photographing and painting food (in New York)-it's been part of the art culture for awhile.

"Then came the food wave with the Food Network, Travel Network, and connecting with art more," he continues. "A lot of chefs consider themselves artists, and a lot of artists are fascinated with food and the human experience of food."

Feroleto, as a member of the Ivoryton Village Alliance, was instrumental in starting a Saturday farmers market this year in front of the gallery and across from the Ivoryton Playhouse.

It was the right mix of ingredients for a food-themed exhibit to be held during the farmers market.

"The show kind of created itself," he says.

Artwork encompasses abstract and representational paintings, sculpture, video art, photography and actual food as art, such as a portrait of Madison's celebrity chef Jacques Pepin created out of rice and beans by Jason Mecier, internationally renowned food artist. Mecier recently made the news with his "Meat the Candidates" portraits of Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama made entirely out of Jack Link's Beef Jerky.

Other artists include Kathleen Lee of New York; Morgan Wilcox and Danielle Wills, both recent Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts graduates; Paul Baldassini of Middletown; and Claudia Van Nes of Chester. A video is on view by New York video and performance artist Elizabeth White making egg tempura.

Rather than the expected panel of artists and academics, jurors include Mike Colameco, chef and author of "Food Lovers Guide to NYC" and host of "Real Food" on PBS; Ciro Verdi, owner and chef of Da Ciro Ristorante in Manhattan; Neil Fuentes, TV's singing chef; Jonathan Rapp, owner of River Tavern in Chester; and Priscilla Martel and Charles van Over, Chester chefs and food writers.

"I purposely didn't include straight-up artists as jurors," Feroleto says, "to propagate the theme of being a diverse and eclectic gallery, and to break down some of the barriers that people have with regard to art in general and food in general.

"It gives chefs a chance to be on the other side of the table; pardon the pun," he adds, "and for them to be judges of subject matter that they actually use for their own livelihoods."

Prizes for award winners, are, of course, food-related, and include having their work exhibited in fine restaurants such as Da Ciro and the Old Lyme Inn, and tickets to the Ivoryton Playhouse's fall production of "The Kitchen Witches."

LOOKS TOO GOOD TO EAT

Spaghetti and plump meatballs in a thick red sauce and mouthwatering, melting Hershey's chocolate bars are among the subjects of a series of oil paintings by young award-winning artist Morgan Wilcox of Westbrook. Born in Oklahoma, Wilcox graduated in June with a BFA from Lyme Academy College, where she is continuing to study for a Master of Arts.

Wilcox combines her understanding of artist's painting materials, as well as materials used by painting conservators to, as she says, "exploit texture and the luscious nature of oil paint."

She says she's always been drawn to still lifes as a subject, but doesn't like other artist's still lifes as a rule.

"They're not the most exciting. The set-up of pieces tends to be pretty conventional," she says.

Wilcox found herself drawn to methods and materials people used in the past-like Rembrandt.

"He was always creative with his use of materials and techniques and wasn't snobby about it," she says. "I've always been a big fan of oil paint. You can do more with it than any other medium-at least to me. It's the medium I could push the furthest."

And food was the perfect subject for her to "push the material envelope."

Both artist and alchemist, in order to create such a visceral, sensuous quality, Wilcox melts foods like chocolate and gummy bears and mixes linseed oil into the paint that she applies directly onto objects like real meatballs. She then photographs the altered food and paints from the photographs.

Wilcox sees her work, particularly canvases covered in melting chocolate, more as landscapes than still lifes.

"I've never heard of a show themed on something like this," she says. "I like the idea, I'm glad I'm a part of it. It's interesting to see what other people are doing with similar (subjects)."

FOOD AS PERFORMANCE ART

Neil Fuentes of New Haven brings the added dimension of music and entertainment to the event.

Fuentes grew up on a farm in Venezuela, where he was always in the kitchen with his mother, exposed to the freshest ingredients. He acted and danced through his high school years. As an international flight attendant, after graduating college, he had the opportunity to try exotic foods and wine around the world, sparking a career in the food industry. He moved to the U.S. in 1995 and worked his way up the ladder to become director of catering for a five-restaurant chain. Simultaneously, he worked as a dancer and M.C. and joined the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus.

All these interests came together several years ago when his own company, The Sensational Singing Chef, became one of the most popular segments on WTNH's Connecticut Style show.

Fuentes' most recent endeavors include hosting "What Should I Cook?" a variety TV show that incorporates cooking with music, performance art, and live entertainment, and the nationally broadcast Food Network web show "Sabra Recipe Make Over."

"Cooking and music have always been my two favorite worlds," Fuentes says. "Now I sing with a 10-piece salsa orchestra-Sonido Libre-teach cooking classes out of my house, and I'm starting to teach a Latin aerobics class."

At the art opening, Fuentes says he will prepare a cerviche and will sing two Latin songs-one at the beginning and one at the end of the demonstration.

As a judge of the artwork, he comments, "For chefs, it's great to look at the beauty of what we do in a different perspective. We have it for real, but it's a nice change of pace to see it in an art form. For me, food is a form of art, anyway."

“Spaghetti and Meatballs”; oil by Morgan Wilcox
“Spaghetti and Meatballs”; oil by Morgan Wilcox

IF YOU GO

What: Food, Fresco, Farm, and Fotograph

Where: Six Summit Gallery, 6 Summit St., Ivoryton

When: Through Sept. 29. Reception and awards ceremony Saturday, Sept. 15, at noon during farmers market

More info: (860) 581-8332 or online www.sixsummitgallery.com

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