Artist Appreciation Month

viewers in art gallery August is American Artist Appreciation Month. 

America has always produced high-caliber artists, from the lonely landscapes of Edward Hopper, to the playful, colorful musings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, to the photography of Diane Arbus. The arts are often hotly debated when it comes time to hammer out government budgets, but an austere world devoid of art would be a pretty boring and depressing place. Expressing oneself through the arts has been a practice of humanity from the get-go, and artistic expression shows up even in the most impoverished places on Earth. 


The Cafe – Art Connection 

Chef Becky approaches food with more of an art background than your average chef, having grown up working in different food industries (milk, ice cream, wild game) and studying art in college, then returning to the restaurant industry. Jane Kunzman is a local artist who likes to visit Bex and do a little sketching while dining. This practice has long gone on with artists, including artists from the days of absinthe bars in Europe to Robert Crumb’s doodles while waiting for food in French eateries. Janet Mavec, a local florist who provides the Bex table flowers, approaches floral arrangements with an artist’s eye. 


Food as Art 

Chef Becky’s beautiful presentations are not by accident: the Chef thinks of food on many levels, including shape and color and final presentation. This is similar to what an “expediter” in a restaurant does: besides telling the kitchen staff to get a move on, they check the final plating for its eye appeal, tightness, and beauty. We eat with our eyes and live in a hypervisual age; Chef Becky believes that food can be used like artists use paints or material. Interestingly, the director of the Mad Max films made an astute point: “Even in a post-apocalyptic society, people will make art out of what’s available, because human expression finds a way, no matter what.”  


Food as Installation food as art

Chef Becky puts so much thought and work into her food that she often makes her dishes into “food installations,” as she calls them, after the tradition of the art installation. Using repurposed corned beef, hat, and shoe boxes – many from local areas of NJ – as a base, she puts together crudité platters that are as eye-appealing as they are scrumptious. “I think in terms of color,” the Chef says, “as we all do, but also in terms of shape, repetition, and elevating food to the level of art. The design of food is a finishing touch that makes a huge difference over your cookie-cutter, unimaginative catered foods.” 


Upcoming at the Bex Art Gallery

The next artist to be featured will occur sometime in October. “I love to support the arts,” Chef Becky says. “When I was growing up I shared a room with my brother, but when I got my own room one of the first things I did was use the walls as a canvas. Sketching, doodling, and putting pen to paper is very good for the brain, and cafes just lend themselves to art.” 

What does supporting the arts look like? It could be whatever you like: visiting an art museum, creating some time to make art yourself, taking a deep dive into an artist’s life, or creating a meal that you find artistically photo-worthy. Still life art has long incorporated everyday objects and food. 

And of course, feel free to extend Artist Appreciation Month to all year long!