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Archive: March, 2007

Change is about experimentation

March 28th, 2007

The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre showing the Julian Opie Wallworks installation titled This is Shahnoza, 2006 vinyl

Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, London

© 2006 Julian Opie

If one does not test boundaries, then they become invisible. The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre had not changed since 1974, the year that it was opened. This installation was undertaken by a younger British artist whose work is about capturing a Pop art essence of our own contemporary moment. Yes, pole dancing exists in our world in 2007, and yes 6th graders are aware of it. Julian Opie has a daughter himself, and as an artist he is endeavoring to make links between these often remote, seemingly disconnected realms: that of Henry Moore’s sculpture and of contemporary representation of the body. Transformation AGO affords us an opportunity to think experimentally and to explore boundaries in a creative forum.

David A. Moos, AGO Curator, Contemporary Art, responds to a 6th grade teacher’s reaction to the Julian Opie Wallworks installation.

Going with the Grain + Joan’s Biscuits

March 28th, 2007

George Clausen, Haying, 1882. © 2006 Art Gallery of Ontario

People these days have such a love/hate relationship with “carbs” – but it’s amazing to think about how much work it takes to bring those grains from field to plate. I’m reminded of this when I look at artworks like George Clausen’s Haying (1882). I must admit until quite recently my only thought when I put my whole grain slice in the toaster was: peanut butter or honey? But a visit to New Brunswick’s historic village Kings Landing last summer enlightened me. It has a great operational 19th C. mill staffed with costumed interpreters who explained how farmers brought their wheat grain to the mill to be ground into flour by these massive turning millstones powered by water from the nearby river. Very cool.

Here’s a simple recipe that features wheat flour at its best. This recipe is from Joan, my buddy Heather’s mom. I spent some time at her family’s camp near Cape Tourmentine, NB (out east it’s a camp, not a cottage). Joan rattled off this recipe to me from her head while mixing a batch before dinner one sunny warm evening by the bay. They are simply the most melt-in-your mouth biscuits you’ll encounter. Joan’s secret: FREEZE the butter and then grate enough off the block when it comes time to bake. It’s ingenious!

  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 butter or magarine (frozen, grated)
  • 1/2 cup milk (works with skim and soy milk too)

Mix together. Knead a couple of times. Flatten ball to be about 1"-1.5" thick on cookie sheet/ flat pan. Cut into squares with a knife. Bake 14 mins or so at 425 F (until golden around the edges and a little on top). Enjoy!

Chardin’s Almond Macaroons

March 15th, 2007

Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin, Jar of Apricots, 1785. © 2007 Art Gallery of Ontario.

What’s that little lump in between the orange and the tea cup in Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin’s Jar of Apricots? It’s that tasty treat, the macaroon! Sugar was a sign of wealth and priviledge in 18th-century Paris. This still-life painting is full of sweet treats that showcased Chardin’s success and status to his viewers (as a painting of caviar, truffles and foie gras would today).

Try this recipe based on one from Chardin’s time and create your own culinary!

  • 1/4 c. blanched almonds (40 g)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2/3 c. sugar (150 g)
  • 5 tbsp cake flour (30 g)
  • Pinch of salt

Grind almonds 1/2 cup at a time in a blender or pass throught the fine blade of a good chopper (or buy pre-ground). Beat the egg whites and salt together until stiff peaks are formed. Combine the sugar and the cake flour, and fold into egg whites. Fold in the almonds. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about 2" or 5 cm between the cookies. Back at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) about 15 minutes, until golden brown (makes 28-30).

Variation: Coconut Macaroons – This may be more like the version of the macaroon you know and love. Gently fold 1 cup of shredded coconut and 1 tsp almond extract into the almond macaroon batter. Bake as for almond macaroons (makes 30-35).

Mary Pratt and the Pomegranate

March 12th, 2007

Okay, I promised in an earlier post more from Canadian artist Mary Pratt. Her luminous still life Two Pomegranates in a Glass Bowl (1984) captures the bulbous beauty of this exotic fruit. This is what she shares with us about pomegranates:

Mary Pratt, Two Pomegranates in a Glass Bowl, 1984. © 2007 Mary Pratt.

Mary Pratt writes:

“I have never cooked with pomegranates, but the juice makes a very good “ice”. The juice can now be bought in bottles, and I’d do this, as soaking the seeds in water and then squeezing the liquid through cheesecloth is an unnecessary nuisance. Freezing the juice with a “simple syrup” of sugar and water, and mushing it constantly with a fork or handheld blender is not difficult. But somehow, I’d rather have a chef in a good restaurant do all that. I just like the leathery look of pomegranate – and the startling appearance of those tumble of seeds when the fruit is split. “The Song of Solomon”, myth and legend – pomegranates have inspired men and women as long as we have records of the written work, paintings and sculptures.

Exodus 37, King James Bible

‘and they made upon the hems/of the robe pomegranates of blue,/ and purple and scarlet, and twined linen/ and they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the/robe, round about between the /pomegranates:/ a bell and a pomegranate, a bell/ and a pomegranate, round about the/hem of the robe/ to minister in; as the/ Lord commanded Moses.’

The Songs of Solomon

Ch. 4 – 3 ‘Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,/ and they speech is comely: thy/ temples are like a piece of a/ pomegranate within they locks.’ "

Ms. Pratt – thank you so much! Do any of you have pomegranate thoughts to share?

Nuts for Nuts

March 7th, 2007

This recipe received rave reviews after it was posted on the AGO intranet in December by marketing whiz Sue Boyle. I whipped up a batch just last week for a family gathering and I can confirm – these are a big hit! Bonus: they are a tasty treat for friends and family who are allergic to wheat/gluten. Warning: they are highly addictive! Here’s what Sue had to say:

Every Christmas at the Boyle household – the house is brimming with a pleasant combination of grumpy old men, slightly overweight children, one certifiable aunt…well maybe two, a couple of ex-convicts and a multitude of other interesting characters that should be in a David Sedaris novel. Anyhow, the events are frequent and often very loud. When I want them all to shut up for five minutes….I serve these nuts. It seems to work.

Hubert van Ravesteyn, Still Life with Walnuts, Tobacco and Wine, 1671. © 2007 Art Gallery of Ontario

Nuts for Nuts

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cups walnut halves
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup whole unblanched almonds
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

  • In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and water until frothy.
  • Add nuts; stir gently to coat.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients. Add to nut mixture and stir gently to coat.
  • Spread into two greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pans.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Cool. Store in an airtight container.