Book Review

Jackson Pollock – Painter, Baker, Foodie

February 23, 2016
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I love to cook and I love cookbooks, so full of visual delights!  I recently came upon Dinner with Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art & Nature by Robyn Lea, published by Assouline.

Dinner with Jackson Pollock

Dinner With Jackson Pollock: Recipes, Art & Nature Robyn Lea, Francesca Pollock (Preface), Helen A. Harrison (Foreward), published by Assouline

Did you know that Jackson Pollock was a gardener, chef and baker?  We all know Pollock as a world-famous, wild abstract expressionist painter, but he was also a culinary talent and lover of good food.

Who knew! Robyn Lea, photographer and author discovered a treasure trove of hand written recipes belonging to Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, also a painter at their home in Springs, a hamlet in the Town of East Hampton, New York.

The book includes over 50 scribbled/handwritten recipes from Pollock, his wife and his mother. It reveals some of the culinary skills of this great artist.

It all started when Robyn Lea, an Australian photographer went on assignment  to take photos of Pollock’s house for a magazine article. She ended up in the pantry, where she discovered the artists’ hidden recipe collection.  She found the recipes stuffed inside the front and back covers of cookbooks and inside the pockets of a small New York Times recipe file from 1942.  This discovery reveals a quieter, domestic side of Pollock. Recipes include starters and entrees to side dishes, breads, and desserts. His apple pie even won first place in a local pie baking competition!

Dinner with Jack Pollock, Recipes, Art and Nature is a lovely exploration of the artist and his culinary talents drawn together by Lea’s beautiful photographs, interviews and writing.

The recipes featured are simple, post-war favorites made with traditional ingredients. The book is full of photographs of the dishes, candid snapshots of Pollock’s former home, his studio and handwritten recipes on scraps of paper. Included are over 100 illustrations.

As Francesca Pollock, the artist’s niece, writes in Dinner‘s introduction, “He painted the same way he cooked: Endlessly using leftovers; keeping and re-using; trying one color or shape and then another. There was never ever any waste. Painting, like cooking, was a way of living.”

This spiral-bound volume is a delicious addition to any cookbook collection. Oh, and be sure to try Pollock’s prize winning apple pie recipe.


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The Power of the Image …Looking and Seeing

June 2, 2015
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“Migrant Mother” Dorothea Lange”s 1936 iconic photo is inspiration for Marisa Silver’s novel “Mary Coin”

I so love Marisa Silver’s new book, Mary Coin. She uses Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother as the fulcrum for her beautifully written story about photographer, subject, a moment in time and how history is made.

Inspired by real life women, Dorothea Lange and Florence Owen Thompson, it is a fictional exploration of the story behind the iconic photo. Silver’s compelling novel incorporates biographical details of her subjects about that brief encounter between two self-determined women; one celebrated and one unknown (Florence lived in anonymity and did not reveal who she was until nearing the end of her life).

Mary Coin is the migrant mother with courage and determination as well as secrets. Vera Dare is the photographer with creative ambitions who chooses to leave her children to pursue her work.  A third character in the book is Walker Dodge, a present-day profession of cultural history who discovers family secrets embedded in the photo. Silver tells a compassionate story about family, love, loss and uncertainty.

The story also explores questions about the power of photography, the morality of art and how history is interpreted and preserved. Vera Dare’s portrait brought the plight of the migrant workers and rural poverty to the attention of the Farm Security Bureau but she also knew that it might not help Mary and her children. In the framing of the photograph, Mary’s glance is full of strength and resignation. She is rooted in time. But why are the children turned from the camera?  Questions of intimacy and distance are threads throughout the book.

One of the most famous images of the 20th Century, the photo has become dull with time. It has been exhibited, used to document the Depression and even placed on a stamp. We have interpreted the image throughout the decades and no longer see it.

Marisa Silver weaves a beautiful story that gives new life to this iconic photograph and shows how photography can capture the essence of a moment but the question remains; does it blur or illuminate history?

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