Gleason’s newest show is a feast for the eyes

 

October in New England means shades of red, orange and yellow bursting from the trees. It means cozy sweaters and the first lighting of the fireplace. And it also means the arrival of many of our favorite comfort foods. Between the crisp temperatures outside and Gleason Library’s newest show, “Something About Food,” a word of caution: visiting the library will make you hungry.

Presented by Art at the Gleason’s volunteer curators Emily Stewart, Andrea Urban, Amy Livens and Sandy Eisenbies, “Something About Food” features the photographs of Boston-based food stylist Catrine Kelty and the ceramics of Carlisle potter Doug Hansel. The show, which opened on September 22, runs until December 29 with an artist reception on October 12.

Catrine Kelty, Photographs 

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“Asian Pears,” by Catrine Kelty. With a visual arts and culinary background, Boston-based food stylist Catrine Kelty has been using food as her medium for more than 20 years, creating edible landscapes that are a feast for the eyes. (Photo by Catrine Kelty)

Long before food photos began appearing on social media platforms by the hundreds of millions, food stylist Catrine Kelty was creating mouth-watering images for numerous editorial and commercial clients, publications and cookbooks. The daughter of a French- trained butcher whom she credits for her “…appreciation of food as craft,” Kelty has long been aware of food’s aesthetic appeal. “I remember loving [its] colors and textures,” she says, explaining that a beautiful meal reminds her of those shared with family and friends while growing up in Montreal, Canada. “That’s the way I’m wired [to look at things].”

With a background in Visual Arts and years spent working in the culinary industry, Kelty was approached by a food photographer friend who thought her skills would naturally lend themselves to food styling. Kelty took to it right away and food became her new artistic medium. For the past 20 years, she has worked with editors, art directors, photographers and videographers to capture the inspiration behind and essence of a food, but in a way that works for the camera. While we see images with two eyes, Kelty points out that the camera only has one, and that is where layout, lighting, photography and styling come in. 

The art of food styling

Kelty compares her “food wrangler” role to that of a makeup artist: she uses a variety of tools and props to make food—the model in this case—pleasing to the eye. In addition to sometimes actually making the food being photographed, she also monitors it throughout the shoot, ensuring that its texture does not change as it reacts to heat, light and time. “I work very organically,” Kelty says of her styling process, explaining that in the moment she is always inspired to try something new and can often be heard on set saying, “I have an idea!” 

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“The garlic bin,” by Catrine Kelty. She captures the essence of food in her dramatic and mouth watering images.
(Photo by Catrine Kelty)

Her culinary background also ensures that someone on the creative team is familiar with how the food should look or if a plant used decoratively is edible or poisonous. Even Kelty’s comfort in the presence of raw meat—courtesy of her father—allows her to reassure an apprehensive photographer that a shot will work. “I see beauty in a drop of blood,” she explains, adding that her teams “…put our souls and our personalities into those images.”

Play with your food

For her Gleason show, Kelty combines her food styling aesthetic with her photographic eye—using images that she has created over the past year using either an iPhone or camera. Kelty’s attention to small details shifts the viewer’s eyes as well, and whether it is the darkly whimsical image of pig feet wrapped in twine of “Twine and Swine,” the hint of a 15th century Dutch still life as seen in “Two Clementines” or the simple stylized chaos of “The garlic bin,” her photographs make you appreciate the beauty of food in a very different way.

Kelty’s work also captures what the artist refers to as her relaxed and loose styling, an aesthetic that is popular with both her thousands of Instagram followers and her editorial and commercial clients. Crumbs, drips and smears are not imperfections in these photos. Instead, they become the detail that makes the image come alive. As she writes in her artist statement, “I like capturing, manipulating, reinventing and turning moments into something that transcends its imperfections and manifests its beauty.” 

To see more of Kelty’s work, visit her website at http://www.ckfoodstylist.com or follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/catrinekelty.

Doug Hansel, Ceramics

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Carlisle potter Doug Hansel works in high fire porcelain clay, using a variety of firing methods. Above, a sample of his current work. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Anyone who has ever owned handmade pottery knows that a one-of-a-kind piece is not just special, it also elevates or styles whatever it contains. There is a reason that legendary chef and restaurateur Alice Waters made locally sourced and handmade ceramics an integral part of the Chez Panisse experience and a reason that trend continues: we eat first with our eyes.

Doug Hansel has been creating beautiful, functional pottery pieces for two decades. Working with high fire porcelain, Hansel has combined his classic design aesthetic, his enthusiasm for learning new techniques and his ability to focus on mastery to create stunning designs, reflected most clearly in his series of trays now on display at Gleason as part of his collection. 

Learning to throw

When he first discovered ceramics, Hansel—a native of upstate New York —had been studying wood and design at the State University College (SUNY) at Buffalo with the intent of becoming a furniture maker. However, after watching a production potter and discovering wheel throwing, his focus shifted to ceramics. Concerned that he would need a backup plan as an artist, Hansel’s focus shifted again and he began studying plant science and tree care, ultimately obtaining a Plant Science degree from SUNY Cobleskill before relocating to the Boston area as an arborist and tree surgeon.

Within a year, Hansel returned to ceramics, studying at the Worcester Center for Crafts and the Mudflat Pottery School in Somerville. The latter, with its generous 40 hours of open studio time, allowed him the flexibility to create around his day job. In 1998, Hansel became a member of Mudflat’s technical support staff, giving him access to the gas kilns as one of ten responsible for firing student work. Five years later, he would become part of the teaching staff—a position he gave up in 2007 to focus on his children. Hansel remains a member of the technical staff, estimating that over the years he has fired nearly 500 kilns.

Practice makes perfect

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Carlisle potter Doug Hansel works in high fire porcelain clay, using a variety of firing methods. Above, a sample of his current work. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Hansel’s preferred material is porcelain clay. He appreciates the brighter colors that are revealed in the glaze during firing. While his primary method of firing is with an oxidation atmosphere (a controlled amount of oxygen within the kiln), he also has pieces on display that highlight reduction (the removal of oxygen within the kiln, which forces a chemical reaction with the ceramic surface) and salt (the addition of sodium chloride to the flame) firing. 

For the past three years, Hansel has been focusing on his series of trays: experimenting with techniques, designs, glazes and form. The pieces are slab built, stretched and manipulated in terms of shape, design and pattern—a shift from his traditional wheel throwing work. While his focus remains on creating functional pieces for environmental reasons, Hansel’s tray series—both large and small—also sees the artist creating pieces that could simply be displayed. “It’s easy to get into ruts,” he explains. “It’s safe.” To ensure that he is learning new techniques and experimenting to make them his own, Hansel continues to take workshops and is inspired by the works of potters Stephen Hill and Phil Rogers.

The former arborist is also bringing nature into his pieces with the incorporation of wood stamps to create natural patterns and textures. “I know what I’m looking at with wood,” explains Hansel. One example of this can be found on the second floor in his “Branch Bark Ridge Tray,” which features a wood impression of a branch joining to the trunk of a tree (the wood itself is also displayed).

With his children getting older and with more time to work in his basement studio, Hansel believes his work is in a state of change. “I’m going to the next plateau,” he says, explaining that while ceramics is a lifelong pursuit of experimentation and mastery, he is eager and curious to continue trying new things. “The last thing I’ve made is the [piece] I’m most proud of.”

In addition to his pieces at Gleason, Hansel’s pottery can be found locally at Artisans Way, 18 Walden Street, Concord; Mudflat Gallery in Cambridge and at Five Crows in Natick. You can also view his work online at: www.facebook.com/doug.hansel. 54 or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/hansel_pottery.

Join the artists for a reception on Friday, October 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Gleason Library, 22 Bedford Road. Admission is $10 (cash or check at the door) and includes wine, refreshments and music by the Carlisle Jazz Quartet. To RSVP, call the library at 1-978-369-4898 or register online at https://eventactions.com/eareg.aspx?ea=Rsvp  ∆