THE RECIPE PROJECT
Found Objects, Brass, Stainless Steel Castings, Graphite on Paper
2016 – 2021
My life is inherently tied to the artistic dialects I speak, and each project is an autobiographical albeit elastic response to place, action or community. In 2015 I moved back to Winnipeg after eight years in the US, to live with my 88 yr. old mother. The Response? The Recipe Project – A new body of work that will be the third in a trilogy of watershed pieces around food that began in 2007 with the video Hybred and continued with the video Don’t Go Away in 2011.
I grew up in a French-Canadian family restaurant business in Winnipeg around professional chefs. I am one of the few not working for the business however, I have been unable to escape the metaphor of food as more than a nutritional means to an end, nor deny it as the primary filter in my upbringing. Cooking, giving and serving/eating is the language in which my family speaks. Deaths, births, celebrations and tragedies, are all ‘felt and communicated’ through the making and sharing of food in our house, and the reverberations of this have become a growing influence whether I want it to be or not. The Recipe Project specifically maps the pragmatics of “passage” and how we process death through rituals around the preparation and preservation of one’s “lastness’’.
Having an aging parent is not unique, but the ability to bear witness to a woman’s personal wishes and choices informed by the self-awareness of her own demise, is. Like for many, I’ve noticed a shift in my surviving parent as aging takes firmer hold of her independence, and being in the process of loosing her sight, it is my mum’s unrelenting ‘kinetic memory’ as she cooks through a blurry lens that fascinates me. I spend much of my time in her world of surviving friends, church, volunteering, luncheons, teas, bridge parties etc., and cooking with her for all these occasions, however it is funerals and wakes that have become common in her social calendar. I listen to these old women’s unique perspectives on/during these events around death (at times matter-of-fact), and it is these conversations that became a driving force and what inspired the question that I began to pose to them –“If you had to choose just one food to have served at your own funeral, what would it be?”
One’s “last” choice speaks volumes around tradition, identity/ethnicity, upbringing, experiences (good or bad) and requires one to consider how they would wish to be represented and remembered, in essence, how they see/saw themselves in life. As my mother Irene looses one sense after another, food is more than connected to taste, it is a vehicle for memory in all senses glory, her choice? Lobster, a food closely connected to her upbringing as an New Brunswick Acadian. It became clear these choices were to take shape of solid metal castings paired with portrait totems of each elderly subject. Starting in 2017, I took weekly trips to thrift stores, where much of an elderly woman’s prized processions sit on crowded shelves. Different donated objects developed into each woman’s freestanding form/portrait. The accompanying brass and sterling silver pieces are cast from actual food wax molds to scale, and through the challenging process of working with real food, the lost wax casting and then addressing the detailed sanding and finishing, a transformation occurred from an edible ingredients into sculptures in their own right that now hold the commemorative weight and texture of a life within them.