Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life

11Jun09

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A Feast for the Eyes: An Interview with Artist Gina Minichino

By Suzanne Lenzer

A few weeks ago I spoke to sculptor Peter Anton about his food-related works now on exhibit at the Allan Stone Gallery in NYC. This week I was lucky enough to have a chance to talk to Gina Minichino whose work is currently also on display at the gallery and will be there through June 19, 2009. Gina’s paintings captured my imagination not simply because of her passion for painting food in a highly realistic manner—but because of her predilection for junk food. From bags of Cheetos to packages of Twinkies, Gina brings our guilty pleasures to life in a way that makes you feel like you’re actually indulging just by gazing at the gallery wall. I wanted to hear more about how she found herself drawn to America’s obsession with over-processed edibles.

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SL: Where does your passion for painting food, especially junk food come from? Were you deprived cocoa crispies as a child?

GM: Not at all!  My mom was happy to buy us some sugary goodies.  Kids from the neighborhood came to our house for the junk food!    I suppose my passion for painting it comes from my love of it.   I love it, but I also wonder why it’s so attractive.  Not just to eat, but to look at.  At least, for me!

SL: Is there a political motivation behind your paintings of food? A statement perhaps on our consumptive culture, or am I reading way too much into it?

GM: It’s all about my own personal relationship to the foods.  I’m sort of putting them on a pedestal and saying – look at this!  I find these pre-packaged, man made foods very appealing, yet also strange and creepy with their plastic containers.  Stuff I didn’t notice as a child.  I’m enjoying exploring it all and really looking at it carefully.

SL: Your work is incredibly realistic (as a non-expert I would call it photorealism). What are trying to illuminate in the way your capture your subject matter?

GM: Just an honest portrait.  One that I hope conveys more information, and inspires more thought than just a photograph of the subject.

SL: What response do you hope to evoke in your audience? What do you want them to feel as they look at your work?

GM: I don’t go for any particular reaction.  I enjoy hearing what people bring to it.  The response can be diverse and I love that.

SL: Okay, on to food. What do you eat for breakfast?

GM: I don’t often eat breakfast.  If I do, it’s usually cereal with soymilk.

SL: What’s always in your refrigerator or cupboard?

GM: I almost always have soymilk, cereal, peanut butter, jam/jelly, honey, bread, beans… some kind of boxed mac ‘n cheese… I don’t cook much!

SL: Is there one food you absolutely cannot abide?

GM: Anything meat!  I’m vegetarian.

SL: Do you have any food memories you can share that have inspired you? Your own madeleine so to speak?

GM: I imagine all the summers spent eating boardwalk food in Wildwood, NJ growing up… all the ice cream, funnel cake, cotton candy… it’s pretty inspiring!

SL: Can you tell me about anyone is your life who has influenced your feelings about food and/or cooking?

GM: I’d say my mom.  She’s the one that didn’t deprive my brothers and I from sweets growing up.  And she also cooked great Italian food for us.

SL: What would your last meal be? Where would you want be, what would you eat and drink, and is there anyone in particular you’d like to share it with?

GM: Wow, that’s hard.  I guess I’d like to go to a good vegetarian restaurant in NYC.  There are so many good ones.  Of course I’d like my family and friends.  If I can get crazy, I’d like Charles Schulz there too… he was my inspiration to be an artist from when I was able to hold a crayon.

SL: Do you have any unusual food idiosyncrasies you can share with me?

GM: I always felt my sweet tooth came from my mom being on a frozen Milkyway kick when she was pregnant with me.

SL: Is there any food right now that you’re painting or that you would like to paint?  Anything that would be particularly challenging or inspiring to you?

GM: Right now I’m painting those frozen sundaes you can get in convenience stores.  The vanilla in a dixie cup with either chocolate or strawberry in the middle.  They are really quite beautiful… the machine that squirts out the ice cream makes lovely star designs.  I’ve never looked at them so closely!

SL: What book are you reading right now? Anything food-related?

GM: Non food related- a friend recently lent me “A Sideways Look at Time” by Jay Griffiths… interesting stuff.

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