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Lee Price

Lee Price is an American figurative realist painter. Her hyperrealist canvases contain candid, pseudo-photographs concerning the relationship between women and food. Sometimes evoking secret moments of binging, and others featuring lonely moments of tea-sipping in a bathtub, Price captures the quiet war of emotional eating, using herself as the subject.

As a woman, I have been made to feel guilty for eating that extra french fry, for wanting that additional slice of cheese, or for not being petite. Women are constantly ‘food-shamed’ according to antiquated stereotypes of our gender should behave around cuisine. In short: eat little. We are held to impossible etiquette standards, we must be dainty, and yet, we must also be the cooks.

Food, the sustenance of life, and for many a joy of life, is also something which seeks to control us.

I have eaten crab rangoon in a bathtub. I have consumed a bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips and a box of Oreos silently before a roommate came home. I have sneaked eating Frozen Yogurt on my walk home. I once got into a fight with a best friend over a box of Whole Wheat Strawberry Poptarts. All the aforementioned rest neatly in my annals of food guilt.

Yet, some of my most cherished memories also contain the ignition of my olfactory bulb and gustatory delights: pizza from Jumbo Slice, 2 am chicken tenders from Wingo’s, a Philly cheesesteak, my anniversaries at Dovetail and Colicchio & Sons, a weekend olive oil tasting in Napa Valley, sashimi-delivery-for-two with my boyfriend in the tangled sheets.

It wasn’t until the aughts that a woman finally won Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I oscillate between a life of gluttony, of flippant uncaring, and of an extreme need to somehow tame my natural urges, and to count a calorie. My friends are all on a perpetual diet. I cannot read a woman-targeted magazine without an article on cholesterol, staying slim, or the right kinds of fats. If left unchecked, I would eat all of the world’s chèvre.

Lee Price, Ice Cream II

But, in truth, I adore food. I adore it at least three times a day. And Price shows this edifying and celebratory (almost orgasmic) side of fare, as well. However, she neglects to include the communal connotations of a shared meal.

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From her studio in Beacon, NY, Price dreams up canvases “exploring food’s role as liberator, crutch, drug, and nourishment.” In a somewhat mocking turn, the city of Beacon, not far from the Culinary Institute of America, is also in the midst of a food revolution. The industrial town on Metro North has remained its relationship with farms not factories: Tito Santana Taqueria, The Hop Beacon, Homespun Foods, Max’s on Main, The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, Cafe Amarcord.

Let the food revolution continue.

Hidden on an unassuming side-street on the border of Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, NY lies Aaron Ruff’s studio. Based out of the The Invisible Dog Art Center, Ruff’s jewelry line is asperous, craggy, whimsical and filled with motifs of yore: Latin phrases, ballinger vessels and other ships fueled by the trade winds, antique letterpress keys, anatomical parts seemingly drawn by Henry Gray, and other sundries. And yet, from the creation of rough-hewn objects comes some of the most unique and delicate engagement rings I have ever seen.

Meet Digby & Iona.  In addition to the jewelry, the studio is  packed floor to ceiling with antiques and curiousites fit for a Victorian cabinet.

And who are Digby & Iona? Well, no one…really. Ruff chose to name his company after two quiet seaside towns in Nova Scotia, Canada (inspired by a trip taken before the studio’s creation). The names just happen to also be a juxtaposition of two interesting and sophisticated people who sound vaguely literary.

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Shifting his style a few years ago, Ruff now splits his focus between sterling silver creations, high-end gold stacking rings, and diamond engagement rings on commission. He sources his gems from a fellow NYC company that has an ethical mine in India. Ruff, who used to be a carpenter and cabinetmaker, has been interested in adornment since his teens. He loves to work with “the weird stuff,” such as black diamonds, “salt-n-pepper stones”, sapphires, and tourmaline. Lately, the work is becoming more geometric and architectural; literally building houses for his stones – a much more personal nomenclature than “prongs” or “settings.”

Not just for the gentler sex, Digby & Iona explores the intersection between masculine and feminine, chunky and dainty, antiquated and new. My colleague Meg and I tried on plenty of ultra thin bands alongside heavy signets (ala Henry VIII) with the idea that body decor is androgynous and personal.

Ruff is a transplant from Dresden, Maine. A town with a population of 1,672 people in a county that seems closer to Canada than the rest of the USA. This idea of obscurity pervades most of his pieces.

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We continued speaking casually over the sound of a tumbler polishing pieces and Ruff’s dog whinnying at a bird outside. Extensive research is done over every piece, no matter how many millimeters of design. We explored items inspired by the War of 1812, J.R.R. Tolkien quotes, and essays by Teddy Roosevelt.

If you want jewelry that speaks to the past and is connected to human affairs and bygone quotes, Digby & Iona offers a veritable library of inspiration.

Like happening upon a shipwreck, spelunking for geodes, or unearthing buried treasure, or a map to a hidden cache, the details in Ruff’s studio and jewelry present themselves slowly but richly.

Adorn Yourself.

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Studio Visit

Diana Kurz is a naturalist and figurative painter based in Soho, NYC. She was born in 1936 in Vienna, Austria. Kurz explains, ” My parents and I came to the US via Italy, Switzerland, England (where I learned to speak English) and Ireland. Because of the large body of work I have done on the subject of the Holocaust, I think it is important to mention that we were forced to flee Vienna in 1938, and that although we came to the United States when I was four years old, the events of WW II directly affected my life and childhood. Family history and my parents’ generosity in raising two of my orphaned cousins, survivors of concentration camps, as their own children instilled in me an awareness of the importance of social justice and caring for others.” To read a more in-depth biography, reprinted from Veteran Feminists of America, go HERE.

Diana Kurz and her mother in Europe when she was about 2 1/2 or 3.

Diana with a hip, mod, Sassoon inspired pixie cut in her Paris studio in 1965.

And later in her Soho studio – one of the lucky few to find these hidden Soho loft gems in the 1970s (before the area became the trendy, commerce center it is today).

Like in the Wizard of Oz, we just went from Black & White to Color! This is Diana today standing in front of one of her paintings. Look a that necklace!

She has exhibited her work extensively in solo and group shows nationally and internationally and her work is in many distinguished private and public collections including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Rose Art Museum, Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien in Austria; The Jewish Museum of Vienna; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Hudgens Center for the Arts, GA; Savannah College of Art and Design, and Yad Vashem. Among the numerous awards she has received are a Fulbright Grant in Painting to France;  New York State Council on the Arts CAPS Grant; American Center Residency in Paris; Austrian Federal Ministry of the Arts/VCCA Artist-In-Residence in Vienna;.Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency. Kurz has been on the faculty of distinguished art schools including Pratt Institute, Queens College, Cleveland Institute of Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SUNY at Stony Brook, University of Colorado in Boulder, and Philadelphia College of Art (now known as University of the Arts). She has a Bachelor of Arts cum laude degree in Fine Arts from Brandeis University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting from ColumbiaUniversity.

John in the Studio, oil on canvas, 57″ x 68″

Ann in Striped Dress, oil on canvas, 72″ x 51 1/2″, Collection of Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts

Women painters were rare in the 1960’s and so the best compliment she would ever receive at the time was “that could have been painted by a man” (How horrible)! Although it might not show at first glance in her works, Kurz studied the compositions of Piet Mondrian at great length. Her canvases are heavily influenced by the the exploration of lines and color composition.

Silver Spring Monkeys, #2, Monotype, 6″ x 8″

The Hudson River Downtown Study #2 ,oil on paper on canvas, 7″ x 10″

I have had the pleasure of meeting Diana on several occasions – we talked over cookies and tea just last week! We first met during my time at Columbia University while I was the Project Manager for an amazing endeavor called “Art Cart: Saving the Legacy”. Enough on the history, now for a present-day studio visit:

Alternate uses for Cento Tomato Paste. 

Not shown in the photo, the other kitty and an adorable lap dog – DIXIE!

A detail. 

What inspires you to succeed and create? What do you need in your office or workspace so that you can be successful?  I have a garden gnome given to me by my friend Sonja that has been in every apartment in which I have ever lived. It travels with me, and is always lurking in the corner, helping me to conjure ideas!