Tag Archives: Art

INTERVIEW//VISUAL ARTIST JAI CARRILLO

“Hello Hello” Interview with Jai Carrillo by Rae Rubio

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Hand sewn black drop crotch sewn from a skirt skirt. (photo by Laura Cohen)

I first met Jai working together at a frame shop in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco.   We kept eyeing each other from across the work place because of each other’s fashionable art wear. I knew then we’d be friends, and I’ve always known he’d have something to share with the world of his talents.   Jai is an emerging queer textile artist based in San Francisco. He explores his vision of art through fibers, photography, fashion, and beauty.

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Portrait of Jai embroidering (photo by Korey Luna)

Favorite quote: “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” – Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Rae: Now let’s begin with this interview.  Can you recall a memory of when you first started making art and textiles? How did you start being serious about it?

Jai: My earliest memory of creativity was at 5 years old. When the Disney movie The Little Mermaid came out, I needed to have the Barbie version. What was available to me was a generic Barbie doll and a squeaky rubber shark. With scissors in hand, I cut the shark’s head off and placed Barbie, legs first, inside. This wasn’t the most glamorous mermaid, but I was happy.

What could be more queer than the juxtaposition of a vicious, blood thirsty boy’s toy and tender, petite girl’s doll? Years later, I began hand sewing dresses for my Barbies, which was the beginning of my textile journey.

At 17 years old, I got my first sewing machine. It wasn’t until college that the study of textile arts was something people practiced, not just fashion. Weaving, fiber dyes, basketry, embroidery, and pattern design became outlets for new creative expressions.

Rae: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

Jai: The term “queer” has various connotations depending on generation, gender politics, and community. To be vague, I describe queer as a feeling, person, or idea that does not follow traditional thinking in Western culture. The subject is queer because it challenges conventional ideas of gender presentation around masculinity. Breaking down ideas of gender association with textiles opens up new visual and tactile experiences.

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Rae: What mediums do you work with?

Jai: Since I went to college to study photography, the idea of portraits appealed to me. Once digital photography was integrated into the practice, I became disassociated with the subject and struggled relying on technology as a tool for expression.

Just like a photograph, embroideries are portraits that capture a moment in time. What’s special about textiles is the hours, days, and months spent recreating that stillness.

Knitting, crocheting, sewing, and embroidery became my favorite practices. I began working with recycled materials like lingerie to make boxing gloves. Knitting with thick yards of wool to create boxing gloves presents a delicate approach to a violent male dominated sport.

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After 3 semesters of textiles and a self portrait embroidery assignment, needlework fulfilled many of my queer creative desires. When researching books on embroidery, I found a technique called “Blackwork” which uses counted repeat patterns to create graduation with thread count and filling in extra stitches. Using embroidery fabric that uses counted stitches per inch, stitches create a pixel effect that can make an image. Perfecting this technique has taken years and seems to be what I enjoy most.

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Rae: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?

Jai: Photography has been used to document diverse cultures and communities. Queer youths are losing visibility as western cultures come closer to equal rights between same sex relationships. Since same sex marriage is an option in California, homosexuals can be seen following hetero-normative traditions like monogamy and child rearing. San Francisco has become an epicenter for queer youths and people living with HIV.

As unemployment rates and homelessness are increasing, 4 condominiums for single family are being built within a 3 mile radius, leaving queers and people of color to move where? Where can queer people of color gain visibility when so much attention goes to living a traditional lifestyle in an expensive city?

It’s important to bring attention to conflicts that may not be part of our community, and art has always been a medium to share worldwide. In public, my mannerism, my petite figure, and floral print outfits read me as a big ole’ queer.  My art looks at ambiguity and anonymity of one’s ethnicity and gender to challenge our prejudices and really look into behaviors.

Rae: Do you intend for your work to challenge the viewer?

Jai: Historically, so much of art subjects the female body to the male gaze. The female body is objectified in all art forms as well as film, television, and advertisement. The female body has become a normative part of western culture and is rarely disputed for being publicly displayed yet often critiqued. When naked male bodies are viewed in the public eye, discomfort and associations with homophobia rise.

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Why is there a binary between the sexes? It’s obivious that the imagery is of gay sex and pornography. Beyond gay sex, the experience the viewer has with the art challenges perceptions on sexuality, gender, and race.

When the phallus is delicately embroidered, one is forced to look closely at the details, and see the phallus as something beautiful. Men are challenged to look at the sexual context of the art.

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Rae: What are you presently inspired by? Are there particular things you are reading, listening to, or looking at to fuel your work?

Jai: Works by the playwright Tennessee Williams have been influential by romanticizing tragedy and dishonor. Williams often writes about homosexual characters hiding from their true self. Characters that live dual lifestyles often have the most mystery which leads to tragedy. I think the unspoken sexual deviance becomes a curiosity and informal awakening to sexual diversity in current culture.

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Rae: What do you love most about being an artist in San Francisco?

Jai: Whenever I walk around the city, there is some imprint of art in the streets. Someone knits yarn around a tree or bike post, coy fish skeletons float on the cement of my neighborhood, spray painted stencils denouncing building condominiums mark my walk to work.

The effort and amount of expression is unlimited in San Francisco. Since I’m working as a Hairstylist at Edo Salon, I’m inspired by everything that can be translated into hair. Color, patterns, compositions all influence my esthetics. There are many street artists as well as gallery artists that are passionate for their craft. Passion is what makes art live and inspires me to create as well.

Rae: Describe your personal style?

Jai: It’s kind of hard to say what my style is like…I guess I’m like a Golden Girl from the 1950’s who bumped into Vivianne Westwood. Yeah, that’s it.

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Handmade floral jersey blouse and shorts (photo by Laura Cohen)

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Baroque hold shorts made by me from skirt (photo by Laura Cohen)

Rae: Any influential artists that you love and admire?

Jai: Kiki Smith, Claude Cahun, Robert Mapplethorpe, Pierre et Gilles, Tom of Finland, Kenneth Anger, James Bidgood, and Nick Cave are artists that I reference during creative brainstorming. Using traditional techniques of portrait photography, Robert Mapplethorpe showed the beauty and sensuality in bondage and discipline sexual practices with soft lighting in black and white photography. James Bidgood created a pink, glitter filled bedroom and story tale forests to depict homoerotic desires. With an 8mm film camera, Bidgood created a full length film in his studio apartment, lots of paper mache, and filmed male sex workers to create Pink Narcissus. I love the parallels between sexual deviance and magical eroticism. Softening our visions of underground sexual practices of pain and submission creates a kitsch value I love exploring.

Rae: Are there any artists you want to collaborate with in the future?

Jai: Nick Cave creates gorgeous sculptures and suits used for performances. Cave uses different mediums and has so much knowledge for constructing these suits. The details are hand crafted and take a crew to build. I’d love to perform and build a suit with him.

Rae: What music inspires you when you are making art? Any bands or genre you are currently listening to?

Jai: Erykah Badu, Kate Bush, and the Delfonics have been creative sidekick when I want to mellow out, sit in my rocking chair, and embroider. Whenever I’m speeding through a sewing project and need some energetic tunes, Kelis, Animal Collective, No Doubt, Santigold, and Nina Hagen are right by my side.

Rae: When are you most creative, time of day?

Jai: Like many artists who like to procrastinate, the late hours tend to be the most productive. Probably because I’m tired and a little delusional from long hours at work. What has been helpful to enhancing that creativity, is organizing craft nights with friends and roommates. The energy in a room filled with artists presents a bounty of influence, support, and fun that can’t be found alone in my room in the middle of the night.

Rae: Lastly, are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and When?

Jai: During San Francisco’s LGBTQ Pride Month, I was part of a collective art show “Queering Mythologies,” sponsored by the Queer Cultural Center. The show gave me inspiration to work on projects I’ve halted for 3 years. I’m currently working on a burlesque performance piece about a boxer who comes out a queer. The outfits will be covered in red sequins and lace.

Rae: Thank you for the interview Jai! I’ll be seeing you around soon!

Chack out Jai’s website: 28bobbypins.blogspot.com/

email: jaicutshair@yahoo.com

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Ring Pop Art by Julia Chiang

Ring pop art by Julia Chiang courtesy Design Boom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your food is fluorescent, let’s be honest, you’re probably not eating from the recommended five food groups.

Artist Julia Chiang honors our childhood addition to neon food – namely, candy  – in her Ring Pop series.

The installation is composed of hundreds of Ring Pops, arranged in shapes, and let to melt under the lights of the gallery.

It’s a delicious and bright melding of taste and color.

Also!
Don’t forget to check out Artlarking’s Neon/Nature event, Saturday June 4!

Ring pop art by Julia Chiang, courtesy Design Boom

Ring pop art by Julia Chiang, courtesy Design Boom

The Art of No Fear: Jennifer Maria Harris


I interviewed artist Jennifer Maria Harris last week at Samovar Tea Lounge about social action, childhood, persisting as an artist, and her upcoming collaborative work.  An exhibition for her Fear Not Project  is currently on display at the Red Poppy Art House.

Harris will also be contributing to Artlarking’s June Neon/Nature and the New Currency show  in collaboration with local band Cartoon Justice.  They will be doing a live musical remix of audio files from the Fear Not radio project, where people call a hotline with voicemails to spread the No Fear message.  Check it out June 4th at the Box Factory (865 Florida @ 21st, SF)!  And read….
The Interview!

Alison Dale: Your site is tallpainter.com.  So who is this tall painter?

Jennifer M. Harris: When I was first working as an artist, I was just doing painting, for probably the first 5, maybe even ten years.  When I was in school I’d always done many many different things and enjoyed them.  But interestingly at one point one of my main painting instructors had expressed the opinion that you shouldn’t cross-craft and diversify, and you should focus.  And although I think there was value to that, that is not the way that I work.  I actually really benefit from doing many different things.  So… straight out of school I was listening to him and I think it also made sense just for me to kind of hone my craft… and I also just love it.  But as time passed I got more and more drawn to other projects from the past:  ….printmaking, but primarily doing different projects that would be installations, public art, social action- I was always really interested in that.

The Man in the Napoleon Hat, the Dog, the Lamb, and the Cat by Jennifer Maria Harris

AD: Yes, I’ve noticed you have done quite a bit of conceptual art pieces. A few of them are chalk based projects- what was that about?

JMH: Yeah- growing up as a teenager during the time of the birth of graffiti art, I did a bit of graffiti.  But I got more interested in doing this kind of impermanent, unsophisticated, and in many ways uncool street art -chalk on sidewalks, like children do.  I figured the benefits are: no one’s going to arrest you for it, you can do it pretty much wherever you want, and it’s this very benign entity.  I also got interested in the fact that it disappears over time.  All of the pieces I did were about sharing stories and how they affect us over time, so that made sense with the medium, as something people would run into and then they slowly disappeared as they walked over it.  And I love seeing how over time the older ones would fade and the newer ones would be the strongest, but it was a nice gradual process.

AD:You were trained as a painter- where did you attend school?

JMH: I initially  went to Virginia Commonwealth University.  I got really lucky getting into their program – I had no idea how good it was, but it’s a fabulous program.  And as part of it, I was able to get a scholarship to study abroad at Loughborough College of Art and Design in the UK.

AD: How did you decide initially that you wanted to be an artist?

JMH: I always wanted to be an artist, was always drawing as a kid….  When I was really small, 3-4 years old, my mother ran a  hair salon.  At one point she had me enrolled in this daycare where kids were running around screaming at each other, and I don’t really remember any adults being present- I”m sure they were, but …. i was really unhappy.  At one point she peeked through the window and saw that I was sitting in the corner crying, kids were hitting eachother, all this chaos.  So she pulled me out and made a deal with me that if I could quietly entertain myself in the salon I wouldn’t have to go to the daycare.  One of the big things that i did was to draw people and animals to keep myself company, because it would get very boring.  I always think of this as an important stage, because a really important aspect of art to me has been creating characters-  many of them are animals, so… entities, beings?  that I really wanted to spend time with but who did not yet exist in the world.   It’s almost like that feeling of missing somebody, and then you see them after a long time- that was how I always felt working.

AD:  How did you decide on art school, officially?

JMH:  Going to art school and choosing it as a profession was a random process, and a bit of a surprise.  In high school I was not in the healthiest place, didn’t apply to colleges.  The process of application at VCU was quick enough that I could commit to it- Literally you just go for an interview, one day, and they told you if you got in.  I think I did my portfolio staying up all night the night before, my typical procrastination at the time, went there, and thankfully got in.   Everything changed for me.  Once I got there, I just got healthy on all kinds of levels .  One of the most healthy parts was learning how to commit 500 percent to what you love.  In terms of artwork, that should always be first and foremost in what youre thinking – not what’s gonna sell, or what other people  will like , but what you love.  And secondly, how to communicate that clearly, so that everyone can hear it.

AD:  Would you absolutely recommend art school to aspiring artists?

JMH:  Yes, because the best way to learn is through lots of other people.  When other people have gone before you doing all of these things, then you can learn quickly from the environment.  VCU accepted around 70 percent of their applicants, which I think is a great idea because who can tell who really has “art skills” when they’re 18?  Because you know, it’s not all about draftsmanship, and how can you tell who’s going to do what?  So they would accept 70 percent and just really kick your butt your first year, so it was all about who cared enough to persist.  And that’s a good way, because when you really get out there it’s the same- I’d say that almost all of the people I know who are working as artists now are really the ones who care enough to persist.

AD:  How do you define art? What is art to you?

JMH:  An interesting thing I recently read about the word art is that the root of it has to do with the place where two things join- almost like the word “joint”, just this place where two things connect and where they articulate- where they connect and move…. I thought that was really cool.  Etymology is obviously really interesting to me.

AD:  One  of your current projects is the Fear Not project.  Can you explain this concept a little bit?

JMH:  The Fear Not Project is based on this idea: iif we were all paying attention to both looking for anti-fear messages in the media and the world around us, and also focusing on sharing those messages with each other, we would benefit.  This, rather than what I think our natural inclination is, which his to look for things that we need to be afraid of, and share that information about what to be afraid of.  I think especially in our current times there’s just so much information everywhere that I think you can end up getting an incorrect view of what the world is like.  And that’s not to say that there aren’t things to be afraid of out there, or really difficult situations, but I do think that our level of focus on fear is not only bad for us, but affects our view of other people.  It makes us more likely to be afraid of other people.  Boundaries like race, religion, politics- for those to be stronger, and more negative because of the emphasis on fear.  Part of the idea behind having people share these anti-fear words is about having them say those words- there’s a nice thing about hearing hundreds of people telling you not to be afraid.

Fear Not Library at Root Division, from fearnot.com

AD:  That’s one thing I’ve seen as a common thread throughout your work, storytelling about that larger connection to people.   JMH:  I really at the heart of it, it’s about having people connect with each other and be united in a goal, without caring about if that other person agrees with them on abortion, or if that other person shares their religion, or is a democrat, or is liberal enough, or republican enough, all of these things.  Because I think in reality the world is a much less scary place when you are connecting with people without regard for those things.  And I know that when people have been willing to connect with me, even if I know that on some deep level they may disagree with how I live my life- that makes me feel so much more inspired with everything that I do, and just safe!  It’s sttange but it’s true, that one person can actually make a difference.
AD:  People can connect to your work May 2nd to June 13th is an exhibition of Fear Not at the Red Poppy Art House (the opening reception was on May 11).
What can we expect at the exhibition?

JMH:  The ongoing exhibition will have over 150 images of Fear Not indirect mail, the hand-written part of the project where people send me written messages that I turn into magnets and put them on the street for other people to find, and the finder can report the find on the website, and also share a little bit about themselves and what they think of it.  Fear Not radio is a sound installation of people who call in to verbally assure us to have no fear to this Hotline:   1-888-END2FEAR (1-888-363-2332)  And Fear Not library is 18 of the best selling books of all time- so that includes books like the Bible, and Quotations from Chairman Mao, but also books like Harry Potter, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull- all of the text in these books has been whited out except for the words “do not be afraid” or similar messages (the Bible has 366 instances of this phrase).

AD:  What are some upcoming projects on your horizon?

JMH:  I’m currently working on a collaboration with Dr. Gino Dante Borges, who has a project called The Wild Self (http://www.thewildself.com/).  The Fear Not/ Wild Self collaboration is going to be called the Yip and Yelp project (a website will launch in June @ http://www.yipandyelp.com).  It’s about connecting with the wild part of our nature and finding a voice to maintain a connection with the animal part of our nature; embracing the uncivilized.  It will be a safe place for people to experiment with this idea.  We will have a toll-free hotline to call as well (1-888-yipyelp) where people can call in and record their wild sounds- all sounds will be anonymous.  These sounds will then be divided by location on an interactive map online.  When hearing these sounds, it will be interesting because it can bring us back to our unseparated, animal nature- like, “is that my accountant, or a the guy from the gas station?”  We also plan to do flashmob-style events to bring the wild nature of people to a public space.

AD:  How did you begin this collaboration?

JMH:  Well, I’ve done very few collaborations- not since I was out of art school, really.  This year is all about bringing more people into my art space.  Gino and I met at a show we were both in at Trickster Art Salon, and then we contacted each other at the same time, kind of serendipitously.

AD:  What is the benefit of collaboration and what is your process?

JMH:  No one told me in art school how collaborations can be important- but they are.  In collaborating with someone, you get a better sense of what you bring creatively, because of how your work can be shown in contrast to theirs.  Also working with people that closely you get to learn so much- they can be great teachers.  Gino Borges is a philosopher- he also brings an awareness of marketing and organization to the table.  I’m more timid at getting people to participate in art projects, and he’s more marketing oriented- together we strike a good balance between coaching people and being a little more aggressive, and being cautious and non-pushy.

We meet once a week at Samovar tea lounge, work 2-3 hours together and discuss, separate tasks for the week, and email throughout when needed.  I feel like collaboration has energized and amplified my work- it’s become a great deal of what I want to do with my artwork as the ideas from Fear Not Project have developed.Thanks to Jennifer Maria Harris for the interview!

Oakland Art Murmur’s Collaborative Highlights

Oakland Art Murmur, the East Bay’s first and finest first-Friday art-crawl, happens each month between 22nd and 26th Streets off Telegraph Ave.  It’s only a couple blocks away from the 19th St. BART Station, so for a SF resident it’s easy to cross the great bay divide and check out the studios and the scene.  I try to go as often as possible, especially during these balmy (windy) summer months (the crowds on closed-off 23rd Street provide for enough body heat).

Since we are focusing on collaborative artists here at Artlarking, I thought I’d give a couple of collaborative highlights of the May 6 Murmur:

  • The monster/robot sculptures of Joshua Margolis, ceramic artist at FM Gallery/Studios on 25th Street.  Margolis had some sketchbooks, pens and pencils out on a table surrounding his work, encouraging people to draw a monster or robot and have the opportunity to see it made into a sculpture:

Murmur attendee drawing a monster, with hopes it makes the cut to becoming a ceramic sculpture.

I chatted with Margolis a bit about his process, and he said he’d been making ceramics from other people’s sketches for a couple years, starting with drawings done by the kids he teaches at JCCSF. He chooses from dozens of sketches done on the spot at past Murmurs; Friday night he was waiting on the arrival of a couple of the sketch artists who would be seeing their imaginary creatures embodied in clay for the first time.   It’s cool to take their pictures with the drawings and sculpture, he said.

Some of the lucky sketches to be transformed into 3-d.

3 birds from 1 sketch

I love this idea of exquisite-corpse-esque collaborative work, where one artist expounds upon another’s work (especially across different media).

  • Another artist that touches on this same idea is Paul Nosa, Tucson artist who travels to the West Coast every summer with his solar-paneled and bike-powered sewing machine.  I met him at Dolores Park two years ago, watching his half-gloved hands weave textured embroideries with his free-foot sewing machine.  His pitch is that he’ll “sew your imagination” – 5 words of what’s on your mind turned into a patch:

Paul Nosa sews imaginations on 23rd Street.

  • A final collaborative piece with an interesting process was the photo-collages of the Counterpoint Series.  For these, Lisa Levine and Peter Tonningsenalternate and exchange the same roll of  film to take photos of the same subjects, which are then layered into colorful abstractions.

    Counterpoint series

    Photo Courtesy of Gene Anderson, ouroakland.blogspot.com

So much more to write about , including non-collaborative favorites of mine (Jeremiah Jenkins’ fantastic solo show at Hatch Gallery and Casey Cripe’s layered biological paintings at Warehouse 415), but I’ll stop here and let you get your fill in person next time.  Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait all the way until June 3- –  Art Murmur galleries are having open studios on May 21st for Murmurama, a welcome neighbor event to San Francisco’s Fine Art’s Fair at Fort Mason on that same day.  See you there!  

xo Alison

Can food be art?

Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes, 1963, courtesy the National Gallery of Art

A critic over at The Guardian, Jonathan Jones, wrote recently that food and fashion, because they get consumed either in or on the body, are not great art. He writes:

Art is of the mind; it is ethereal. Everything it gives us it gives to our brains. Fashion and food fail to be serious art because they are trapped in the physical world. Compare a still-life painting of food – one of those rich, laden Dutch images of lobsters and lemons – with a real plate of food. The painting is very obviously not food – it does not give what food gives. But it does nourish something deeper instead. It reaches the parts of us that chefs and couturiers cannot reach.

It’s an interesting, if not entirely new, concept. He points out that that chefs like Ferran Adrià at El Bulli create innovative, challenging dishes. But can they challenge you, teach you, or illuminate truths about the world around you? Put simply, have you ever been so affected by food as to have it change your life?

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, 2010 (courtesy designboom.com)

I would respond by saying that art is about context. Thousands of sunflower seeds in my closet is just messy. As arranged by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in the Tate Modern, it is most definitely art.

Jones’ argument also takes a pretty narrow view on the meaning of art. Not all art is Great, and meant to tackle life’s deepest questions. Art also brings people together through creative expression. It can come from tentative strumming on a banjo, or designing a new outfit, or creating something in the kitchen that you haven’t before. There’s more to be gained by considering them all art, rather than none.

Ice Cream and My Neighbor’s Art

Art is about opening up doors that seem to be closed, and exposing the unnamed and the unreachable, the unspeakable.  Collaborative art is about reaching out, about sharing, about getting rid of ego to realize we all add to each others being by that which we know needs strength. Collaborative art is about support, about community, and of course exposure.

Tonight, the window to my backyard is open. It is a warm night in San Francisco.  Warm enough to eat ice cream without a sweater on, warm enough to touch the moon that lights up the spring plum tree in bloom.  I can hear the airplanes, the sirens, dogs.  Its too late to hear children, they must have all gone to bed.

The neighbors are laughing… they must have just finished dinner. A moment ago I heard my neighbors sharing stories, and now they are singing!  The most beautiful things, the most amazing things, happen, when people come together. Tonight I wish I had someone to dance with, but for now I will listen to the voices of the people next door who enjoy what is all of ours to share… each other.  What is greater than that, truly? -Hilary

Famous Artists’ Kitchens

Even the most spartan-living artist has to eat sometime. I had been thinking recently about famous artists’ kitchens. I’ve rounded up a few pictures below; it’s an interesting mix of simple to opulent.

Monets kitchen courtesy lagrandemaisongreenleafgarfield.blogspot.com

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Claude Monet’s home in Giverney, France. He painted the grounds (especially the lilies) extensively, but never paid any attention to his lovely, blue-tiled kitchen. It’s staggering to see in person, and a great reflection of his use of colors and textures. (I would wager that Monet himself never cooked there though).

Fridao Kahlo's kitchen, courtesy proggirl's Flickr
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Frida Kahlo’s kitchen is just as colorful and vibrant as her paintings. There are traditional Mexican tools, masks, baskets and urns. The room expresses her art’s balance between the familiar and the exotic.

Georgia OKeefes kitchen, courtesy santafetravelers.com

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Georgia O’Keefe painted the American Southwest from her home in Abiqulu, New Mexico. Her kitchen, available as part of her house tour, displays 1950s cookery and gadgetry to suggest she was a true cook, in addition to being a formidable artist.

Francis Bacons kitchen, courtesy sebastianguinnessgallery.com

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I can’t imagine Francis Bacon as a gourmand, and his kitchen doesn’t look like an easy place to cook. It does look like he chose to place prints for inspiration all over his London apartment.