Tenth ‘Art of Food’ Brings the Farm to the Gallery

Since its debut a decade ago, The Art of Food exhibition at The Carnegie has continuously topped itself, evolving beyond visual art to wearable art and performance.

click to enlarge Tony Dotson’s “Beef” painting for his butcher shop gallery
Tony Dotson’s “Beef” painting for his butcher shop gallery

The “Mona Lisa” made of bread. A marshmallow dress toasted onsite. A gallery of glass toast. Since its debut a decade ago, The Art of Food exhibition at The Carnegie has continuously topped itself, evolving beyond visual art to wearable art and performance. But artist Pam Kravetz, who has organized an army of creatives for the opening since 2013, says this is the first year all the artists and chefs have aligned. The 10th-anniversary theme is Farm to Gallery, a twist on farm-to-table.

“There was art on the wall, and the chefs did something,” Kravetz says of past events. “Or we had the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and the chefs did their thing. Now we’ve gone to their turf. Everyone is embracing and celebrating the heritage of Kentucky, the flavors of bourbon, the historic farmland.” The anniversary logo features a crisscrossed paintbrush, pitchfork and table fork.

“Farm to Gallery is definitely something we can get behind because so much of what we do at Bouquet is farm to table,” says chef Stephen Williams of his Covington restaurant and wine bar. This is his sixth Art of Food.

“To celebrate the art of food day-to-day, it’s great to support your local food community — farms, artisans, producers and restaurants,” he says. “It’s amazing what you can find when you look outside of the larger grocery stores.” He grew up down the road from where his restaurant gets its bass.

For the first time, there are two Art of Food receptions. Wednesday is an intimate version with seven chefs and is limited to 200 people. Friday is the traditional experience with a sellout crowd of 700 and offerings from 20 culinary artists.  

A raised barn has been built in the main gallery. The loft will house the music. Artists and models in costumes — including a pig, carrot, haystack, milkmaid and even a weathervane — will roam below. Rollergirls wearing broccoli crowns by wig designer Stacey Vest plan to skate outside. Vest has also fashioned goat horns and wooly leggings for chefs. Kravetz, arbiter of what’s fun in Greater Cincinnati, will assume the role of county fair judge and pass out blue ribbons.

Because the artists are eager to push themselves, this is a “haute-down” as much as it’s a down-and-dirty hoedown. During a meeting at Kravetz’s house, her collaborators passed around photos of Alexander McQueen’s beehive fashion collection for inspiration. Ashley Marie Bowman of Northside’s Casablanca Vintage shop thought of covering a dress with dried artichoke leaves and making an “artichoker” necklace. Others are repurposing grain sacks as textiles.

Pictures of hands at work farming, crafting and cooking will be pasted around the main gallery. C. Jacqueline Wood of the Mini Microcinema will show video of Rabbit Hash quilter Jane Burch Cochran, whose work is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Antonio Adams has drawn portraits of the chefs for a “farmhouse sitting room.” Eric Brass is using food to recreate Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”

Like farm-to-table fare, Tony Dotson’s sparse folk art contains no artificial fillers. Dotson uses house paint for his cartoon-like figures, and all his surfaces are reclaimed materials — barn wood, cabinet doors, factory molds. “I don’t like gold-frame art at all,” Dotson says. Keeping things real, he doesn’t sell prints of his work.

This is Dotson’s third Art of Food. He says he loves the event because The Carnegie exhibitions director Matt Distel sets him free. “They let me play. It’s the simplest thing — they let me play,” he says. The artist likes to say he paints like a 6-year-old but with an adult theme. His picnic installation for last year’s Candy Land theme included Ronald McDonald hanging from a tree.

This time, Dotson is turning an upper gallery into a butcher shop to honor Cincinnati’s meatpacking history. An old-timey sign beckons boxing fans to try some new Big Bill’s Pig Jerky after the fight. Dotson takes on modern diets in a work titled “Ironic,” where a truck marked “Vegan Meats” runs over a deer.

The Art of Food is one big, chaotic Christmas/zoo/amusement park,” Dotson says. “It’s like Indian Hill meets Clifton meets Loveland meets Cleves.”

Or the farm meets the gallery.


THE ART OF FOOD takes place 6-9 p.m. Wednesday ($100) and Friday (sold-out) at The Carnegie in Covington. More info: thecarnegie.com


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