Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Final Semester as an MFA Candidate at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Daria Souvorova Bacchus Comforting Ariadne
Bacchus Comforting Ariadne. Oil on linen. 64x44in. 2013
Throughout my final semester, I continued to pursue my interest in still life and pattern, which was reawakened through working on Judith and Holofernes. I was trying to address the disconnect between viewer and subject – to allow the figures to be more absorbed in each other and more natural – surrounded by objects that appear to be contemporary. I readdressed my color palette, and began to work with a slightly cooler, more chromatic palette, focusing on swelling fields of color more than the localized color forms. I recognized a disconnect between all of the objects in my narratives and attempted to create a sense of atmosphere that was more attainable in my smaller drawings from life.

At this point, I also became interested in working from life with other figures, and began to make portraits of other people to extend my character vocabulary, and build my interest in other body types. I hope to pursue this side project in conjunction with my invented narratives until I reach a point where the two bodies of work seamlessly correlate into one.

Daria Souvorova the Soprano
The Soprano.  Graphite on Paper. 22x30in. 2013
My last semester and my ASE exhibition are dedicated to pursuing a large, consecutive narrative project. I was interested in the story of Ariadne: her narrative allowed for a piece on abandonment and another on redemption. I wanted to explore how one figure could react differently in varying spaces and situations.

Ariadne, the daughter of Minos and half-sister of the Minotaur, watched as her father subjected fourteen youths to be slaughtered to the Minotaur. She fell in love with Theseus, one of the intended sacrificial victims. Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of golden thread  – to guide him in and out of the maze – and a sword – to slay the Minotaur. In exchange Theseus promised to marry Ariadne. 

Daria Souvorova Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. Oil on linen. 56x52in. 2013
Having slain the Minotaur, Theseus took Ariadne to the island of Naxos, slept with her, and abandoned her in her sleep. Ariadne awoke to find herself deserted and alone and grieved for her foolishness. For the sake of love, she abandoned her country and family, she gave up everything and was left alone to suffer for it.

My first image addresses Ariadne abandoned on the island.  I wanted to describe her reclined on a temporary bed of linens, either just realizing her abandonment or calming down from the first wave of terror at her betrayal. I wanted her to feel trapped – as if she is inhabiting the maze from which she rescued Theseus. Her reclining figure is abutted by a dark wall, shaded by plants, as if a solid gray field is keeping her from extending far into the interior of the image – she is trapped. The serpentine, flowing movements of the fabrics turn into waves, carrying small boats away from the shore – mirroring Theseus in his abandonment by sea. The entire shape of the figure mirrors the small boats that surround it, perhaps signifying Ariadne's correlation to the empty vessels surrounding her.

Daria Souvorova Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. Graphite on paper. 40x44in. 2012
I wanted to stray from the literal image of a tiny boat leaving on the horizon, and chose a more metaphoric, and symbolic approach to the narrative. I became really interested with still-life objects during the creation of this composition, pulling meaning from the toy boats, ships in bottles, and bottled messages that would never be read. I wanted to address solitude and the inability to communicate, so the idea of sending out messages that may never reach their intended audience resonated well with this narrative. I wanted to have some semblance of the past presence of Theseus, a ghost acting as a character who no longer occupies the space. An old glove, holding the golden thread, represents the hand that once inhabited it and reminds us that the occupant of the glove was once present, but has since departed.

Daria Souvorova Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. Pastel on paper. 20x30in. 2013
In the painting of Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus, I wanted to focus on creating a new color scheme. I was reaching out and attempting to forge connections with the contemporary art world through any venue available to me. I tried to stray away from local color. I began with a pastel color study, focusing on blending of series of colors to create color harmonies within shapes as well as between them, in an attempt to work less locally.

I changed my entire color palette, noting the pigments in each pastel I used, and then purchasing a new set of oil colors. I put away all of my cadmiums and began my work. I began using a stand oil – based medium, working out the entire composition in underlaying colors and reworking the final color composition on top of the contrasting hues. This allowed me to create more variation in the fabric and skin tones, to stray away from modeling with one or two colors in order to build volume. 

Daria Souvorova Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. Detail
As the painting reached relative completion, I began to question the pose of the figure. I repainted each feature, hoping to give it more character, to take away some of the classical Idealism that was inherent in the pose, and create a more personal Re-Idealized form. I appreciated some of the figure's languid qualities, but wanted to bring it away from a posing model to a more reactionary figure.

I also questioned the relative lack of use of the upper quadrant of my painting. I decided to introduce another version of the golden thread. Ariadne was known as the weaver – some say that she is Arachne and the spider originates from her name. I wanted to symbolize the idea of Ariadne giving up her power to Theseus. She gave him her golden thread, and as he, the new spider, spun her web and left on the boat, Ariadne, represented by a bird, is left trapped in the golden spider web that she once controlled.

Daria Souvorova Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. Detail
I wanted to create a distinction between the two compositions – Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus and Bacchus Comforting Ariadne – and I decided that more emphasis needed to be placed on the arrangement of figures on the page. The painting was almost completed, yet I added a second panel to the bottom to extend the space, and remove the figure from its role as a centralized focal point. This change will make the figure feel trapped towards the top of her composition, allowing for a differing feeling and atmosphere from the second composition.

The ambiguity of the Ariadne drawing was a very positive turn in my work, but I noted that there was still a stage-like presence to the composition. I wanted to change this with the second half of the consecutive narrative.

Daria Souvorova Bacchus Comforting Ariadne
Bacchus Comforting Ariadne. Graphite on paper. 44x30in. 2013

Ariadne is not left to grieve her solitude for too long, as Bacchus, the god of wine, sees her and is amazed by her beauty and stoic nature. He comforts the weeping Ariadne and later marries her.

Daria Souvorova Bacchus Comforting Ariadne
Bacchus Comforting Ariadne. Oil on linen. 18x12in. 2013
I wanted to address the viewpoint in this second narrative – Bacchus Comforting Ariadne. I wanted to force an interaction between the viewer and the two characters, possibly making 
the viewer take on the role of Ariadne, empathizing with her in that moment. I chose to keep the same setting as the first composition but flipped the viewpoint and orientation. We are no longer seeing Ariadne as if we are watching her on a stage in a theatre, rather, we are floating over the couple, and gravity forces us to interact with them.

The symbols that were so vital to Ariadne in the first composition are scattered and folded into a discarded bit of fabric on the lower right. Bacchus is present, and the symbols that represented Theseus are no longer vital to the narrative. I wanted to focus on the gestures and absorptive qualities of the figures – I wanted them to be individuals, yet to feel like they are part of each other. A dark pelt sets off the light of Ariadne's skin yet helps to connect her to the relative darkness of Bacchus's bending form.

I continued to add elements that resonate with the contemporary audience. The arrangement of hair and less classical pose, especially of Bacchus, as well as his boxers and black socks help ground the figures. The fresh stripes of the mattress deflect from some of the classical features in Ariadne's reclining form.

Daria Souvorova Bacchus Comforting Ariadne
Bacchus Comforting Ariadne. Detail
In conjunction with the changes in the final composition Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus, I wanted to give this composition more of an airy feeling. I wanted to portray the presence of space and life beyond the maze-like wall. I was really attached to the tension of Ariadne's foot against the bottom of the canvas, so I chose to add extra space to the left and top segments of the canvas. Seeing the two final compositions set up next to each other gives them the opportunity to communicate and allows the placement of figure to add to the narrative.


In my journey through this collection of narratives, I have come closer to grasping the origin of my imperative to create these complex and frequently tiresome compositions. I am searching for an understanding and empathy for my characters and continue to explore different venues of attaining just that.

I recognize my love for the human form and for creating narrative compositions and continue to seek parallels between my work and the world in which I reside. I fail to give a final justification for my
endeavors – for – I do not know, but I have decided.

Third Semester as an MFA Candidate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Oil on linen. 46x68in. 2012.

I began the fall semester with a large scale drawing and painting on the theme of Judith beheading Holofernes. This composition, and the transition thereof, reflects my thinking process over the summer, and the evolution between the roles of heroes and villains in my life.

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Graphite on paper. 50x72in. 2012.
Instead of choosing the traditional moment depicting Holofernes struggling for his life, I chose to show him in the moment before he is beheaded. I drew him fluid and slumping onto the Fury’s grip. He is delirious and in denial. Smiling, in fact. He is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions and does not even understand his punishment.

The fluid movement between the figures in this work became important. The lighting also played a big role: Holofernes is almost completely in silhouette, which separates him from Judith who is brilliantly lit against the darkness of the wall behind her. Fury wields the sword that pierces the space. It points toward the bed and alludes to the nature of the punishment. A sliver of light follows the edge of the sword and is mirrored by the silhouette of the woman on the bed, that Holofernes was just dragged off of.

Daria Souvorova. Judith and Holofernes.
Judith and Holofernes. Pastel on paper. 20x30in. 2012.
The slashing of the blade became a very important movement in the composition. I wanted to emphasize it. I originally composed a three-figure grouping –  the bulk of the right panel. I added a second panel to the left to allow room for the blade. This was the first instance in which I began to reconsider the symmetrical rhythm of my compositions. The figure's silhouette is the only light on the bulk of the left panel, and as the figure disintegrates almost entirely save for the sliver of light that mirrors the sword, the figure proves unimportant outside of its role of identifying the secondary villain.

It is at this point that I began to make portraits in conjunction with my narrative pieces. Having struggled for so long to create narratives and understandable fables, I forgot  my fervent interest in looking at objects and depicting them. Working on a self-portrait, I drew and redrew myself until I stopped focusing on the Idealized shapes that could be pulled from my form, and began to be more interested in the melting aspect of the light, and the qualities of one shape folding into the next. I forced myself to consider the space between my outlines.

Daria Souvorova Melancholy
Melancholy. Graphite on paper. 30x22in. 2012.
Returning to the Judith and Holofernes painting: I became interested in segregating the hero and villain through taking advantage of pushing some figures towards Idealization, and others towards Characterization.  I created more specificity in the gestures and features of the figures, and began to find interest in the spaces that surrounded them.  The angle of the doorway and the groupings of figures that
Daria Souvorova Judith and Holofernes
Judith and Holofernes. Oil on linen. 46x68in. 2012. Detail.
 melted away into the light began to be considered as narrative devices, as much as representations of the main characters.  I was thrilled to paint the chair and the fabric that envelops it – the violet folds of a yellow pillow became characters of their own right. I repainted the composition in halves and was delighted at the improvement of each section yet continuously dismayed as previously successful areas appeared inferior in comparison. This painting took over three months to complete and became a representation of the progress of my narratives.

Looking at the completed Judith and Holofernes in conjunction with my drawings and the portraits I have been working on, I was surprised at the stark difference between the drawings and the painting.

Daria Souvorova Tom Reclining
Tom Reclining. Graphite on paper. 30x22in. 2012
Judith and Holofernes was a very black and white composition for me, created at a time when I was focused on morality and a strict intended narrative in my works. Seeing it set against the relative subtlety of the portraits made me realize the level of theatricality in the image.  At this point, I began searching for more earnestness and connection between the viewer and my images.

Samson and Delilah is a story about power and trust. God grants Samson unlimited strength, so long as he does not cut his hair. Samson wins all of his battles and tramples his foes with ease, yet soon he grows vain and foolish.  Working for his enemies, Delilah comes to Samson and seduces him. As they lie in his bed, Delilah plies him with drink and asks him what his secret is – he lies. Thrice she asks him and thrice he gives her a lie, but finally he breaks down and tells her that if his hair were cut, he would be as weak as any other man. Delilah waits for him to fall asleep, cuts his hair and allows his enemies to capture and blind him. It is the moment in which, albeit drunkenly and rather foolishly, Samson puts his trust in Delilah.

I returned several times to this composition over the past two years. When I was working on the preliminary drawing, I yearned for connection and earnestness, that despite our seeming closeness, I was lacking.

Daria Souvorova Samson and Delilah
Samson and Delilah. Pastel on paper. 38x50in. 2012

Thus, my story is not what it appears, as the villain and the fool are misplaced, but the concept of trust remains. Samson, in his drunkenness, feels himself loved and safe and gives away his secret: he gives up his strength and power for the sake of intimacy. This composition is a conversation about
the relative values of earnestness and secrecy.

It was important to me that the figures of the two characters merge into one shape, as an embodiment of trust and surrender of mind. They form a loose triangle, which is enveloped by the angles of the fabric
hangings surrounding the grouping. Series of literal and compositional stripes represent the slashing of a pair of scissors, foreshadowing the cropping of Samson's hair.  A sharp ray of light lights a green table with an open pair of shears and Samson’s face and golden hair, twisted in Delilah’s fingers: this moment is meant to represent Delilah at the precipice of deciding whether to save Samson or to seal his doom.

Daria Souvorova Tom as Bacchus
Tom as Bacchus. Graphite on paper. 22x30in. 2012

This composition was finished at the tail of the Fall semester, check back in for the continued narrative in my next entry about my Spring semester.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tom's Spring Themed Birthday Celebration


Tom turned 24 this past Monday, March 4th. We had a little dinner for him on the day of, but the official birthday celebration was postponed until this weekend. Everyone took their part in the preparations, and Tom's birthday bash turned into a lovely event this Saturday evening.

In my role as decorator, I wanted to create a light, airy feeling to go with Tom's spring theme. We chose a light creme table cloth and napkins with white square plates and gold chargers. With a strong focus on the centerpieces, the white plates camouflaged with the table, allowing a thin rim of gold to float among a sea of white. The napkins we had on hand had a decorative edge that did not go with the theme, so I folded each into a narrow strip and folded them around the plates. A fork and knife folded perfectly above the napkin in the center of each place setting.


Finding the perfect flowers was quite the adventure. I started with the idea of different values and hues of green set against the white of the place settings. Unfortunately, the plethora of green blooms and leaves were not as readily available as I presumed.  A new idea was in order: I wanted to keep green as an important factor.  While one usually lets colorful blooms peek out of a forest of green, I decided to allow green to become the accent color, surrounded by smaller blooms of other hues.

A purple flower, somewhere between queen anne's lace and heather served as the body for our main bouquet. I cut it fairly short and sat it in a large candle holder.  We paired it with a bunch of beautiful leaf green yoko ono flowers, which I stuck into the heathery masses at random. The final display is reminiscent of green buttons floating around a violet cloud.

Three bright green dahlias in crystal footed glasses surround the main bouquet. The glasses disappear into the tablecloth, the blooms look as if they are suspended in midair. To contrast with the dahlias are two tiny bouquets of peach carnations, sitting like peachy pom-poms on the tabletop. I extended the centerpieces towards the ends of the table to have enough decoration to fit a table for 7 people: leftover yoko ono blooms were paired with tiny pink branchy flowers for the two ends of the table. 


Tom created his own appetizer dish for the meal. He created an amazing shrimp and cucumber ceviche in a sesame ginger sauce.  He paired it with a fresh white wine, which I will allow him to explain for himself:

Scribbles from the Sommelier:

Since the ceviche hors d'oeuvre is a South American dish known for its acidity and freshness, only one style of wine came to mind: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.  This light-bodied, fresh white wine with vibrant citrus flavors and clean acidity was the perfect complement to the delicious ceviche.  I anticipate enjoying this pairing many times in the coming beautiful spring and summer weather. 

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp Ceviche

2 Kirby cucumbers
Kosher Salt

1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh pea shoots for garnish

dip sauce:
1 tablespoon hot chili pepper sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon white toasted yellow sesame seeds
1/4 cup red, green and yellow bell pepper,finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
To prepare the cucumber: Cut off ends of cucumber and slice lengthwise from each side until you reach the central seedy section. Arrange slices on paper towels in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for a half an hour.
To prepare the ceviche: Assemble all the ingredients for the ceviche (except for pea shoots) in a large bowl, mix to combine, season to taste and let marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To prepare the dip sauce: Put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve.
Rinse the cucumber slices and then dry with a paper towel. Put one slice on a work surface, and make a roll, holding it in shape with your hand. Fill the roll with a few spoonfuls of shrimp ceviche and garnish with a few pea shoots. Repeat until you have used up all the ceviche.
Arrange the rolls on a serving platter. Spoon some of the spicy dip sauce over each roll and sprinkle the rest of the sauce around them.  

Source: endlesswine.com

A lovely champagne we drank with cheeses while preparing the meal.

Tom's dad prepared an amazing dinner for us.  He made flank steak with chimichurri sauce, lemon and herb roasted potatoes and Eric Repert's cumin scented carrots. All of the flavors were light and tangy and would make a perfect spring time meal, I hope you guys have a chance to try some of them out.

Eric Repert's Cumin Scented Carrots

1 ½-pounds baby carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch cayenne
½ lemon
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the baby carrots in a large skilled with butter, honey and about ⅓ cup water. Heat over medium high heat and season the carrots with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes.

Source: www.aveceric.com

Chimmichurri Sauce

2 cups chopped parsley
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Rub some on steak before grilling and serve alongside the flank steak.


These potatoes were my absolute favorite thing on the menu! Tom's dad boiled them once, then added lemon juice, zest and herbs and sauteed them in olive oil until they developed a delicious crunchy outside.  I decided not to torture him for this recipe too, but shoot us a message. If we get some interest, I will ask for this recipe as well!

Scribbles from the Sommelier:

Since our entrée was a variation of classic Argentinian cuisine, my idea for a wine pairing came to me effortlessly; we had to enjoy some Malbec with our meal.  Malbec, a grape originally from Cahors in Southwest France, has exploded onto the international wine scene with the success of its clone in Argentina.  The delicious bold fruit flavors and spice of the wine made it a natural choice for grilled flank steak with chimichurri sauce.


Here's to more amazing dinners!  Goodnight.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Appropriation: Recycled Decoration and Thomas Pedrick's Incredible Meatball Recipe for an Impromptu Birthday Dinner

Tom and I spent an amazing weekend in New Rochelle, New York celebrating the wedding of my dear friend Jessica Gold to the lovely Danny Shatz. It was an amazing service, full of elegance and splendor.  I was particularly dazzled by the lovely flower combinations and was incredibly thrilled to be able to take some home with me. This was the first wedding I have ever attended, and it was quite beautiful.

Tom's birthday was on Monday, March 4th.  An official party and post will be coming up next weekend, but we wanted to do something special on the day of since Tom was awesome enough to come to a wedding with me on his real birthday weekend.  

 Since we did not have anything planned, I decided to recycle the amazing flowers that I brought with me from the wedding and incorporate candles and linens from the last dinner party we threw.  With so much color and interest in the center of the table, I wanted to break up the brightness of the large white plates.  I used a black napkin and floated a tea light in a small glass cup in the center of every plate.  This way, most of the focus remained on the centerpiece, yet the settings incorporated well through the repetition of flickering light.

Bouquets of dusty pink roses and white hydrangeas popped beautifully against the organically striped green tablecloth, almost like blooms against the green of the grass. I always feel bad for flowers that only get used once, so I wanted to share a nice way to repurpose blooms that would only have the opportunity to shine for one lovely night. This was a quick and easy setup to make an unplanned evening beautiful and unique.

Tom's dad, also Thomas Pedrick, is an amazing cook.  He attended the Culinary Institute and has a certificate in both French and Italian Cuisine.  I love visiting the Pedrick home for amazing dinners.  Monday, he prepared a beautiful and simple meal of pasta and meatballs.  Possibly the best meatballs I have had to date!

 He has agreed to share his epic recipe, so here it is:

Thomas Pedrick's Meatballs

6 pounds of a pork/veal/beef ground mix
bread crumbs:
6 slices of bread soaked in whole milk
1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese
1 1/2 cups parsley, chopped
1-3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
3 eggs
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano

Preheat oven to 375. Drain the soaked bread. Mix all of the ingredients together. Form into balls and arrange on several ovensafe containers. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of each dish and bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Make sauce and let the meatballs cook in the sauce before serving.

Scribbles from the Somellier: Our wine for the evening was Masi Campofiorin from the Veneto region of Italy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Six Month Anniversary Celebratory Dinner

Since I missed Valentine's Day to attend the CAA Conference last week, Tom and I decided to cook a big dinner as a joined celebration of our 6 month anniversary, Tom's parents' wedding anniversary and Valentines Day.

We wanted to prepare a lovely spring themed meal, and chose decorations to match. I love to decorate with glassware and fresh flowers and greens. I layered three tablecloths to create a modern, bamboo inspired runner to give length to the table. A simple black tablecloth allowed white square plates to float elegantly on the surface and gave distinction to the series of repurposed glassware and candles that joined to make the center piece.

The green tablecloth, folded into a runner, served as inspiration for the flora chosen for the evening. I wanted to focus on different shades and shapes of green with minimal presence of floral colors. I love the idea of incorporating herbs and various scented plants as part of the decoration for a meal. Scent is as much a factor of an experience as sight and sound. I chose three dozen un-bloomed daffodils, a green-gold column atop a bluish green stem. As the daffodils began to bloom throughout the evening, they emitted a fresh, springy scent and added spots of bright yellow to the composition. Bushels of rosemary and mint blended magically with the sweet scent of the daffodils creating a the feeling of a late spring/early summer picnic in a blooming garden.

As a preview for the evening, we decided to have a mid afternoon meal of cheese, toast and sparkling wine. We chose a vast, international assortment of cheeses, including a Saint Andre, Camembert, Herbal Goat, Manchego and an Armenian Stringed Goat Cheese with Mahleb.

The goat cheese was paired with freshly baked toasts and onions caramelized in a balsamic vinegar reduction. A toast covered in goat cheese or Saint Andre with a topping of caramelized onions made a lovely bruschetta.


1 baguette, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly brush olive oil on both sides of the baguette slices. Bake for about 10 minutes until both sides are golden and the bread is dry and crackly.

Caramelized Onions

1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar of Modena
3 sprigs of fresh thyme

Add olive oil to a heated sauce pan. Cook onions in olive oil until they begin to golden and soften. Add balsamic vinegar and continue simmering until most of the white in the onion has soaked in the violet of the vinegar. Add leaves of thyme, cook for another 2 minutes. Cool and serve.

Scribbles from the Sommelier: 

This dinner, a combined celebration of Valentine’s Day, the anniversary of my parents, and our 6 month anniversary, is a re-creation of one of our dates from the summer of 2012.  It was the first time that Daria and I cooked together.  While one might think this dish demands a white wine, there certainly are some reds that will work.  Because this dish is creamy, I knew I had to avoid a tannic, heavy red wine.  I picked a very approachable and delectable wine, a Burgundy from Chitry.  The fruity, accessible nature of this 2011 wine from Marcel Giraudon made a wine as much of a pleasure to drink in the summer heat as it was on a February night.

Tom wanted to replicate the first dinner we cooked together, which I thought was quite romantic, so we made a version of Julia Child's Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (Chicken Breasts with Cream and Mushrooms Sauce) with thinly sliced, herbal baked potatoes and sautéed asparagus.

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons

8 supremes (boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
10 tablespoons butter
2tablespoons minced shallot
1/2 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
1/2 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/2 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
2 cups whipping cream
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons freshly minced parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a oven safe sauce pan (or two if you are cooking the full recipe) until it is foaming. Stir in the minced shallots and saute a moment without browning. Then stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt.

Remove from heat, roll chicken in butter mixture, nestle in the dish and cover with wax paper. Cover the sauce pan with lid and bake for 6 to 15 minutes, depending on how thinly you sliced the breasts. Remove the chicken to a covered dish.

To make sauce, pour the stock and wine in the pan with the cooking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning, and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)


2 bags small gold potatoes, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary, thyme or any other herbs on hand
Salt pepper to taste

Spread potatoes on the bottom of a oven safe casserole. Sprinkle olive oil and herbs, season and bake at 375 until the potatoes are cooked through and crispy on the sides.


2 bushels asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup water

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add asparagus and cook for a fe minutes. Season to taste. Add water and cook until the asparagus is slightly bendy.

The main dinner was served a few hours later. I really wanted to have a formal feeling for the service, and we decided to plate the dishes in the kitchen and serve plates as opposed to having a family style dinner. Tom's parents, his brother Joe and girlfriend Jen joined us for dinner to make a party of six. I felt quite like a restauranteur preparing all of the plates for service.

For desert, I made a French styled fresh raspberry tart with a custard filling. The. Tart called for my signature tart crust, the recipe for which you can find here: New Years Eve Tart.

Raspberry Tart

Preheat oven to 400 and bake your crust for about 25-30 minutes until it has a golden edge.

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix sugar, salt, cornstarch and flour in a saucepan. Slowly add milk and cook it on medium heat until it bubbles and begins to thicken. Mix constantly to prevent burning or chunks. Remove from heat. Add yolks to a separate bowl, mix about a quarter of the milk mixture to the eggs, a spoon at a time to prevent the eggs from cooking. Mix this back into the milk mixture and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour into baked tart crust, decorate with raspberries and cool for an hour or two before serving.

We had an amazing evening and a lovely meal and I hope you guys have fun using the recipes. The Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons is a copyright of Julia Child and the rest are Tom and mine, all rights reserved and such.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Becoming a Competitive Candidate: my notes from training sessions at the CAA Conference

Image from IBM Archives
As we scramble to transition from graduate student to successful artist or educator, it is habitual to hoard all of our opportunities, for fear of being beat to the punch.  I am too frequently guarding my precious lists of job applications and juried show openings, hoping that somehow my secrecy will limit the number of people that apply, bettering my chances.

Several times over the past few weeks, I have heard that it is the community that makes the artist, and our peers and friends are the ones that help us get the jobs and get into the shows.  In that spirit, I wanted to share some of the tips I received attending workshops and during mock interviews last week at the College Arts Association Conference in New York.

I know that many of our classmates were not able to take the time or money out to attend, and there is a stigma about the value of attending without any scheduled interviews, but I found the workshops very helpful and am making the best out of keeping up with all of the connections I have made. Perhaps this information is old news to most of us, but I found the repetition of it very valuable, so here it is for anyone who wants to know...

On Preparing Documents

Curriculum Vitae

The College Art Association offers a format for CVs, although this format is not required, many schools are expecting a standardized format and everything you can do to make it easy for an employer to find the information they are seeking is in your favor.

1. The education is always first, in order from most recent down.

2. Teaching Experience (I always presumed that I should put my shows first, no dice, move those down). Teaching assistant positions should include the name of the course. List at least the past 10 years (everything since grad school) for positions and descriptions of duties for the most recent or most impressive.

3.  Shows: Show histories seem to be very valuable in an education format, as schools are looking to hire people that are relevant in the contemporary art scene. Apply for any shows you can find. Juried shows and solo exhibitions at community colleges are excellent opportunities.
Separate any solo shows you have had (especially in Galleries, College Galleries, Museums, Art Centers), these are valuable. Avoid placing venues such as banks, cafes and the like in the solo section. If your thesis show is your only solo show, group it with the rest of the exhibition history.
Regional shows are okay. National shows are better. International shows are superb! Don't forget to put the locations of the shows, do not presume the gallery name is sufficient.
List whether the shows are juried or international.

4. Lectures and Workshops come next. Need to build these up? Ask the professor you are TAing for to let you teach for a day, contact your undergraduate program to see if they would be interested in you coming for a guest lecture or to help with critiques in a course you excelled in.

5. Everything else: Publications, Awards and Grants, Fellowships, Commissions, Residencies. Foreign languages and extra skills are a good thing to point out.  One of my interviewers noticed and mentioned that as a valuable asset.

Cover Letter or Letter of Interest

A cover letter should not be longer than two pages. If you are just coming out of graduate school, a page to a page and a half is a good length.
Each letter should be unique. Make sure that you know the program you are applying to. Mention items from the mission statement of the program and cater your description of skills and experience to the exact position you are looking for.  If you are applying for foundations, do not spend the entire letter writing about painting courses.
Most schools are very interested in your dedication to service and scholarship in addition to the time you would spend teaching. Look into what each school means for these terms and put in a paragraph about what you have done and would do. Diversity, multi-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches are big right now as well.
Do not waste your time applying for positions that would not be a good fit.

CDs and Image Portfolios

Most schools I have come across request 20 images (good thing we just photographed our work for 4th wall!). 1000pixels on the longest edge seems to be the standard, it is good to have an image list to go along with this. Printed and saved on the disk with the CD.
Student work is also very valuable, do not forget to photograph work of classes you teach during the final reviews. Most institutions request 20 images of student work.
Make sure your CD is well designed, do not write in sharpie, especially if you are applying for a design position. Why would they hire someone who does not take the time to make a well designed package? CD labels are easy to print and look really professional.

Dropbox: For schools that are requesting an email application (as opposed to mailed or an uploaded portfolio), I like to have a folder on dropbox with all of my images sorted as I would on a CD and I just send them a link.

Artist statement

I vote add one to the image CD and send in a hard copy.

Teaching Philosophy

Write one, even if they do not ask.


Employers want to know that you have courses prepared. One of my interviewers told me that even if they are not requested, packages with prepared syllabus samples automatically go higher up in the pile. And we all want to get higher up in the pile!

On Opportunities

It is tough to know what to apply for. What do we seem the most qualified for, and what is too far of a reach and not worth the hours prep it takes to send out an application?  

Post graduate fellowships, residencies at colleges and community colleges are good ways to get experience.

Keep looking on the College Arts Association website, in both jobs and opportunities sections, things are constantly being posted. Many people are just finalizing their "steps-up" in education...this means that the jobs they are leaving are going to be available shortly...am I right?

On Interview Etiquette

Wow!  You are lucky enough to have scored an interview!  The only one I have had so far, the job was cancelled last minute. But here are the notes I have on Interview Etiquette and followup.

Don't have an interview? Follow up with your applications...I am terrified of this, but there it is.

The Interview

Prepare a sort of artist/teaching statement for yourself: conveying your strength and goals in a few sentences.
Be confident and approachable, begin a dialogue with the interviewer. Do not wait for them to ask you questions, but do not speak over them. Take a moment after each question is asked to think before you answer, you will seem thoughtful and will avoid many of the "ums and likes" we are all embarrassed by.
Do not make assumptions about what the interviewer has seen or read about you and do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand a question.
Always know about the institution and if possible, your interviewer. Have thoughtful questions prepared to ask when the time comes.
Bring ALL of your materials as hard copies, do not presume that the interviewer has all of that information.
Smile :)

The Followup

After you leave, make sure you send out a thank you email or letter.  If you are one of the last to have been interviewed, email is best, if you were among the first, go for snail mail. Do not forget to ask towards the end of the interview how fast the committee is reviewing.
Say something about the campus or job that you liked, show that you are really interested in the position and were listening to what they were saying.

The Presentation Round

Hooray, you have been called back and must now do a presentation of work to faculty and teach a class to students.
As you prepare your presentation for the students, make sure it is not just a lecture. Since they are new to you, they will rarely be engaged.  Make them engaged. Ask them questions, find a way to communicate with the students to pique their interest.
Talk about something that is your strength and that you can do without notes.

On Social Media

Everything is online now a days, and your possible employers will look you up!
Make sure your facebook is presentable.  
Do a google search for yourself. Are you the first thing that comes up or do you need to work on that. Do an image search, what is coming up under your name?  If it is something inappropriate or from your past, remove it or ask whoever is the owner to remove it.
Make a website. You can use several of those pre-made things that everyone has, or make one yourself. HTML is surprisingly easy...I also will add a plug here that I make websites...give me money, I make for you...yes.
Make a blog, title your images with your name, this will increase your visibility. Do it!
Assume everything that you put on any social media, or anywhere on the internet, will be seen by a potential employer.

Have business cards.

In conclusion, please receive my humble offering of notes and super limited experience, and let us all go forth and get jobs!  And not live in our parents basements for eternity!  To action!

Much love,