Food — as any reality cooking show proves — has become an art. From the precise ingredients chosen right down to the dramatic presentation, food has to appeal to the eye as much as to the taste buds. Which is why Joyce Hagen, coordinator at Atlantic Cape Community College, devised the idea for “Food as Art,” a 13-person exhibit that runs through Jan. 21 at the Atlantic Cape Art Gallery.

Think of it as fine art vs. food art.

“Fine art” because the majority of those involved are indeed fine artists. “Food art” because three of the artists are baking and pastry students at the school’s Academy of Culinary Arts, and one is Chef Michael Williams, executive chef and owner of The Diving Horse Group, a boutique food and beverage consulting firm based in South Jersey. For the fine artists, food had to be represented in their work in some way. For the students and chef, their pieces are actual food.

“I try to do programming that’s related to the curriculum of the school,” Hagen says.

It was a culinary professor who mentioned the students’ decorative work to Hagen, so she asked Alexandra Falciani, Anyssa Perez and Gina Raccaniello, as well as Chef Williams, to include pieces. Their sculptures are made of marzipan, lard, tallow and more.

How they stay … presentable, shall we say? … for the entire duration of the show “remains a mystery” to Hagen.

“Food as Art” also includes works by Wanda Chudzinski, Donna Connor, Susan Irland, Doreen Khebzou, Mary Ann Kline, Chuck Law, Dustin Rebecca, Ethan Rubin and Linda Wexler.

In her career, Wexler, a nationally recognized artist who has primarily made her living from commissioned work, has done everything from fine art and illustrations to porcelain work and miniatures.

Her three paintings in “Food as Art” are part of a larger series titled “Tea Cup with …” The “with” is whatever vegetable is in the painting — snap peas, squash, artichokes and more. Every tea cup, however, is Blue Willow china.

“I’m in love with it (Blue Willow china),” Wexler says. “I always find a way to get Blue Willow in my work.

“This series is particularly important to me. It began in a point in my commission work when I decided to do a piece just for me. And the first thing I did was a Blue Willow piece with apples. It was just for me to enjoy,” muses Wexler, who eventually began adding more fruits and vegetables to the mix. “UCLA saw my work online and asked if they could use my images and license it for their organic restaurant.

A former teacher and self-described “lucky girl” — because “God gave me this talent” — Wexler has a Masters in fine art, but considers herself self-taught.

“I always tell my students the same thing. What you learn in school, for me anyway, helps you to learn more. It teaches you how to learn,” she says. “When you’re really interested in something, you have to research it, investigate it and then practice it. You become self taught by this.”

Having already been proficient in food art with her Blue Willow series and her work with UCLA, Wexler was pleased to have been asked by Hagen to participate in “Food as Art.”

“This college specializes in food so I think it’s a great theme,” Wexler says. “I love to contribute. I love to give back because I’ve been so blessed. I believe very strongly in that.”


Pamela Dollak,
Press of Atlantic City