Community Recipe Project

Screen-prints in this series are based on recipes given to Wolf Newlands by friends, family, and acquaintances. All of the recipes are associated with an important memory or experience. The artist’s transcribed recipes-as-artworks were on exhibit as part of Wolf Newlands’ 2018-19 “Keeping House” exhibition at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The stories associated with making and/or eating that food were compiled into a cookbook/catalog which is available at the Museum. The artist’s brother Peter Wolf wrote this essay for the catalog:

Five Pillars of Recipe

A classicist of the old school may ask: “What do little old recipes have to do with art?” At first glance, it may not be clear. Yet with extended consideration and observation, one comes to the conclusion that a project based upon transforming such an ordinary, everyday artifact, is of significant value that has a great deal to do with art and gives us a great deal to think about. First of all, by putting these cherished heirlooms in a new light, one may be brought to a whole new level of self-understanding and the understanding of one’s place in a human community.  Brief perusal of the recipes in this little book reveals many important virtues of Recipe:

Recipe as a predominately maternal heirloom

Recipe as analogue artifact

Recipe as hand me down tradition

Recipe as artwork

Recipe as participation in community

It is not surprising that the crucial spark which set this artwork into motion was an heirloom—(cf “Peggy’s Roll Recipe”) handwritten by Bracken Hobson, the artist’s maternal grandmother. Other recipes in this book testify to unique events which were ‘embedded’ in a brief recipe. For example, see Charles Leiden’s Mushroom and Onion Quiche. Consider then, Charlie’s daughter Hannah’s Stumpt which further entangles new family lineages. Courtship, marriage, childbearing, and the hearth as the natural domain of human beings.

The artist’s use of the medium of printmaking also shows forth the analogue artifact evidence of handwriting which more and more seems to be an ‘art’ of a bygone era. Many of the recipes here reveal how truly human handwriting is with pathos and character—this is a healthy reminder of the value of being authentically human in an era where actual (analogue) flesh and blood human being is threatening to be dissolved.

The recipes reveal a hand me down tradition as is evidenced in nearly every recipe—perhaps future genealogists and anthropologists will use this book to decipher family trees. Note also that this has tended to be a maternal preoccupation as the narratives set forth. But not in every case!

That recipes can be seen as artwork is the principal revelation of Wolf Newlands’ prints. As artwork these prints ask certain questions of the viewer—not only ‘what is art?’ but who am I, where am I going and where have I come from? The recipe as artwork answers to these questions eloquently and in silence to those prepared to hear.

The final virtue I glean from Recipe is participation in community.  You may call this a ‘democratic’ virtue but to be honest the term has been sullied in the past few decades of American political life—let’s call it ‘egalitarian’. The false community of politics and the common good must be seen as hollow and empty if it does not include the warmth of a truly human love and the joy of potlucks, barbecues, tailgating parties and whatever ordinary simple human events that include beer drinking and camaraderie. Civilization which does not ennoble its citizenry is no civilization at all.

In conclusion, in Recipe, I can imagine a completed human life—perfected in another sphere of existence—a Great banquet! Here we will meet our cherished elders, there will be cheese balls, scotcher-roos, Bul Go Ki, Passover cookies and rum balls. There will be oven stew, mushroom and onion quiche, golden fried chicken, cranberry fool, fluffy stuff there will be tea drinking and other libations. We will all raise a toast for the living and the dead and ask for God’s blessing over such a distinguished crew of guests! And we will be immensely thankful for ever and ever.

Peter Wolf