On one of the mornings I was free to do my own thing in San Miguel de Allende, I wandered around to El Nigromante cultural centre, which includes an art school, where in addition to various classes in progress, I found several exhibitions, including a lovely little one, in every sense, titled “Petit Four” , set up in just one medium sized room. As we all know, petits fours are exquisite little bite sized sweet cakes served with coffee; something similar but often less exquisite is available here in uruguay – masas finas come in many shapes and degrees of decoration. I googled the artist, Pat Lasch, found she was on Facebook, and have had some correspondence with her, in which she was very forthcoming about her art. As a young child she began helping her pastrychef father ice cakes when she was about 8 or 9 and did this with him for some years. Later in life they collaborated in a book together with his recipes and her artworks – this time cake sculptures rather than actual cakes. I hope to see this book some time, as from what I saw of this artist’s work, it will be enchanting, too. It wasn’t very surprising to hear from her that back in the ’70’s she too worked in fabric and thread – I haven’t seen any images of that work, yet anyway.
Look at the photos below. These are not edible – they are miniature sculptures of acrylic and wood. Each piece on the plate for example is within 2″x2″x2″. From a technical point of view, just as the pastrychef needs to get the ingredients just right so that icing for example sits correctly at just the right consistency and holds its shape when moulded, so too I think a huge amount of experimentation must have taken place over time to get the ‘fondant’ looking just right, and the lovely glaze on some of the pieces is another technique altogether. And then, the artful arrangement of these pieces, some on a large elegant platter with lace doiley, others individually presented in miniature cake boxes arranged on a lovely lace tablecloth. It was just beautiful.
But art is not mere technical expertise; there needs to be some rationale that connects the artist to the viewer via the work on show. On the walls were two qu0tations important to Pat and used by the curator to help set the mood, create context for this work. Pat’s father told her “If you make a mistake, put a rose on it”. (A famous embroiderer teacher once told a class I was in, not to unpick anything but to just sew more stitches over the top… interesting) The other quotation “There are three branches of the fine arts: painting, sculpture and pastry making, of which architecture is a branch” Pierre Simon Fournier, 1712-1768 (a time in which wit was a prized social/intellectual faculty)
Just as Iwas getting my mind into gear to write this post, somewhere I came across a link to another artist, Michael Paul Smith a designer and photographer who uses his miniature car collection and his occupational skills in modelling for designers and acrhitects to pursue miniature art via photography; and in addition to this link there are others with more examples of very realistic looking photos featuring cars – but his hand made sets are totally to scale and not at all real – just ‘atmosphere’ of the place in which he grew up.
Additionally this same week, on a quilters’ list there was a call for miniature fibre works that must be less than 30cm, or something pretty small for fabric and fibre – anyway, again miniaturisation came up, and it all set me thinking about why people work this way, and how it appeals to the viewer, well to some of us anyway. As Michael Paul Smith commented “What started out as an exercise in model building and photography, ended up as a dream-like reconstruction of the town I grew up in. It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood of my memories.” and this would have to be true for Pat Lasch, too. I haven’t taken to the world of the miniature to the point of wanting to work there, but it is very interesting to see good examples. People often say to me when they see my work, “I don’t know how you have the patience to do that”. I just say ” Well, I enjoy doing it” and smile. I don’t think I can expect such a person to understand that it’s not a matter of patience alone -the artist must have persistence too, but far more important, there must be passion for what you are doing. In these cases, two people are looking back and exploring something that has had profound influence on them, and presenting/exploring that in miniature form. I am really glad I wandered into the fine arts centre that day.