Sometimes a book will sit on the shelf so long that it loses its specificity and becomes merely a faceless one of many. Recently I have been revisiting this group of old friends who are stacked shoulder-to-shoulder on my bookshelves like classmates in some dimly remembered second grade group photo. The Artistsâ€™ Cookbook by Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk is a 1977 publication by The Museum of Modern Art. This book has lived on my shelf since 1979 or so when my best friendâ€™s mom gave it to me in a purge of superfluous reading material. As an elementary schooler, I had little use for a cookbook, especially of the gift book variety, but since Iâ€™ve kept it all these years, it must somehow appeal to me. Perhaps she sensed this. This is also the same women, who, when I was thirteen, offhandedly gave me the complete diaries of Anais Nin. Hmmm.
Subtitled â€œConversations with Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors,â€ The Artistâ€™ Cookbook offers a photograph of the artist in the kitchen, a one-page discussion of his or her perspective on food, followed by a series of the artistâ€™s own recipes. I canâ€™t even begin to imagine what the authors said when they pitched this book. Maybe something along the lines ofâ€¦ â€œWe could get Warhol to make soupâ€ (146-148). â€œMarisol eats only â€˜naturalâ€™ foodâ€ (97-102). â€œAnd oh yea, I hear Larry Rivers makes an excellent Bronx Chickenâ€ (126-129). Now I love Willem de Kooning as much as the next person, but do I really want a recipe for his brother Koosâ€™s Seafood Sauce? Maybe not, but somehow reading Robert Indianaâ€™s recipe for Hoosier Borscht makes me feel as if I know something about him that his art doesnâ€™t reveal.
The most charming artists in the book are Christo and Jeanne-Claudeâ€”listed only as Christo, of course, since it was 1977. Still, within the text they are treated equally as artists. But only one of them cooks, and that is Jeanne-Claude, and that is if you consider opening a can â€œcooking.â€ Their little introductory bio is both delightful and bullshitty. The photo, though, is what makes their story. In it, Jeanne-Claude and Christo are younger than I have ever seen them. Christo looks on as Jeanne-Claude giddily peers into a box of cookies. It was only when I was writing this that I realized that I have the same cookie tin. Though you canâ€™t tell from the photo, the sides of the box are inscribed with marital advice. For example, Be to her virtues very kind. Be to her faults a little blind. As well as, And oft I have hear defended, Little said is soonest mended. This advice is well employed in our house. Judging by what by all accounts was a successful love affair, it seems that the adviceÂ worked as well for Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Â The Artistsâ€™ Cookbook has been out of print pretty much since the moment it was published. Unlike other out-of-print art books, this one is still affordable, maybe because it does not fall tidily into any particular category. The interwebs show it starting at $25. Collecting vintage cookbooks right now is HOT HOT HOT, and this book would make a nice gift for someone who likes art and cooking, but not, perhaps, for someone who just loves to cook. These recipes are a little hit-or-miss.
The Artistsâ€™ Cookbook: Conversations with Thirsty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors
Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk
The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1977
Jeanne-Claude of the artistic team Jeanne Claude and Christo suddenly passed away yesterday, November 18th. According to the Associated Press, Jeanne-Claude’s death was due to complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends.
If you have not seen 5 Films About Christo and Jeanne-Claude I would highly recommend it. Directed by David and Albert Maysles the documentary follows the pair as they conceive and produce their sculptures. Totally unscripted, and spanning three decades the film gives an intimate look into their relationship and the fiery personality that was Jeanne-Claude.
The family statement said Christo was deeply saddened by his wife’s death but was “committed to honor the promise they made to each other many years ago: that the art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude would continue.” That included completing their current installation, “Over The River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado” and “The Mastaba” a project in the United Arab Emirates.
The Colorado project – which they had done parts of on and off for decades – involves spanning miles of the river with woven fabric. They chose the location near Canon City because of its river rapids and access to roads and footpaths. Their other projects include wrapping the Reichstag in Germany.
To view the life and work of Jeane-Claude please visit her and Christo’s site.
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