As all of Alexandria scrambles for the grocery store this week, one Torpedo Factory artist will look to the Thanksgiving table for more lasting inspiration. If you saw Cindy Packard Richmond’s solo exhibition at the Art League last year, you know how vividly a series of paintings—described as “sweeping foodscapes”—can demonstrate the centrality of food and cooking in an artist’s life.
“Most of my memories center around food,” Richmond says. “My oldest brother sprinkling Tabasco sauce on random Easter jelly beans; the sad discovery that a large chocolate bunny was hollow; chopping onions with my mother; my father exhorting ‘Glorious!’ while eating anything my mother cooked; my first meatloaf that called for a clove of garlic—which I thought meant a head of garlic…”
Inspired, Richmond embarked on a career as a food writer. She took assignments with magazines and newspapers, penned guides to produce, meat, and seafood, and worked culinary motifs into two novels. At one point, she was even hired to write minimalist recipe cards. “Each dish could have no more than six ingredients and could take no longer than 30 minutes to prepare,” she explains. “Forced to fit those constraints, recipes became a haiku experience.”
After the death of her mother, who was both artist and cook, Richmond took up painting to feel closer to her, and soon discovered pastels. She promptly turned her attention to art—and began to see food with a fresh eye.
The contours of clementine slices, lilac swirls of chopped cabbage, the gooey trails of a butterscotch sundae, the rainbow shades of mussels in the sun—nothing edible escapes Richmond’s eye, and her food paintings, far from being typical still lifes, are famously large.
“People say they can almost taste the paintings, or that they make them hungry,” she says, citing artist Wayne Thiebaud on the natural connection between painting and food. “Thiebaud is said to equate the joy of color with the joy of eating,” she says with enthusiasm. “I do too.”