The Kenai River Council on the Arts experimental art show this month at the Kenai Fine Arts Center is a piece of cake. But creating the show was not as easy as pie.
To celebrate the fifth annual experimental art show put on by the council this year, participating artists were challenged to use cake as the medium. And any cake could do. Some of the sculptures use pancakes, rice cakes and even commercially-packaged cupcakes to create work for the theme "Life is uncertain"
"Cake is not an easy medium to work with; it was crumbly and it doesn't always do what you want it to do," said artist Ann-Lillian Schell.
Schell, a local fiber artist who teaches wearable art classes in Soldotna, said she combined her loves of designing, sewing, baking and gardening for her artwork entitled, "Life is not a Cakewalk."
Her piece is a diorama of sorts, with Barbie dolls lined up on a platform made of cake like they are in a beauty pageant. Their skirts are made of cupcake liners. Above the scene is a star made out of Twinkies.
"When we were trying to collect sayings about cake. 'Life is not a cakewalk' jumped into my head and the beauty pageant theme just seemed to fit it," she said.
Schell said she got her start making doll clothes when she was a child, so creating this experimental piece brought her back to her roots.
"I've seen other experimental art shows and it always amazed me what ideas are exhibited," Schell said. "I just have a random thought process that other people call creative."
Carol Walkiewicz, of Kenai, a ceramicist and painter, made a sculpture out of toilet paper rolls that appeared to be a cake and incorporated a toilet seat into her piece.
She said her thought behind the peice is that sometimes when you assume something will be easy it's actually hard and first attempts end up in the toilet.
"When you assume and think it's a piece of cake, it isn't so," she said.
And that idea works both ways in her artwork because at first glance it looks like a cake but it's actually made of toilet paper rolls.
Walkiewicz said this is the first time the Kenai River Council on the Arts has used food as a medium in their experimental show. Other years its been mixed mediums like metal, wire or paper mache.
"You don't consider cake as an art aside from birthday cakes," she said. "You're taking different mediums and you're expanding them and creating something that's visually stimulating."
She said she likes the idea of experimental art because it's vastly different than the nature pieces or "spruce, goose and moose" art that's dominate in Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula.
"I think it's a wonderful thing for the community to have access to art forms other than traditional. I think it expands them personally and connects, you know it's a wonderful opportunity for people here on the peninsula to be able to see shows that are stimulating," she said.
Other pieces in the show displayed the artists' musings on cake and life, like Connie Tarbox's "Hanging by a thread," a mobile of shellacked pancakes hanging from a bike tire. Her artist statement said, "life is a thrilling but tenuous journey allowing for hope in our anxiety." Tarbox helped organize the show.
Another interesting piece was a cake depiction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City in Tammy Martinez's "A Slice of Life."
The show will remain up at the Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai through the rest of October.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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