The Mansion at Strathmore is heaving with artists and chefs. The backdoors have been opened to an unusually cool night to ease the strain on the house's aging infrastructure.
I have, embarrassingly, chugged a glass of white in front of an event volunteer and promptly placed the glass back down on the table for a second go. It's cold and wonderful, and there are a million people here and it is warmer than I'm comfortable with. If I have to die, crushed to death in a turn-of-the-century mansion, at least I'll have downed two glasses of white wine.
Women Chefs: Artists in the Kitchen is a celebration of local women as represented by local artists. Paintings, mixed media collages, and sculptures are scattered throughout the mansion, standing starkly against the pale walls and bringing a sharp modern sensibility to this hundred-and-sixteen-year-old house.
Chef Aulie Bunyarataphan -- of THAI, Tom Yum District, and Mama Rouge -- stands by a painting of herself. Artist Eleanor Wang stands by her, a pale gold sheen cast over both of them from the light reflecting off the brightly colored painting.
"I love it," Chef Bunyarataphan said. “I like to give people food, and it shows that. The colors also look like a Thai temple.”
And they do. The feeling of a Thai temple is reflected in this tall, thin painting, slammed lovingly onto the canvas by an artist who, if I had to guess, has never been in a Thai temple.
The Strathmore exhibit is full of these sorts of connections. Deeply personal notes from lives unknown to the artists but for a sitting here and a phone call there.
Chef Daniela Hurtado-Castro was captured by artist Dawn Whitmore. In the image, Chef Hurtado-Castro stands in a kitchen, looking out at the viewer from over a pile of ingredients resting on a green-blue tablecloth.
“I was excited about how well she understood my passion,” Chef said. “It’s the same with the art she does – we’re both passionate about what we do. I also love that she captured my Peruvian heritage so well.”
After one more lap and one final chunk of cheese, I squeezed out of the Mansion with the party ringing behind me. I hadn’t died, and I have plenty of time to go back and see the show on my own time. The energy of the atmosphere will be lessened, for sure, but the vitality in the art will remain.
Women Chefs runs through November 8th, with special events, demonstrations, and discussions scattered throughout the calendar. On September 20, there will be a panel discussion on the importance and growth of women in the food industry, and the process of creating visual interpretations of a conversation between artists and chefs. Panel members include Chef Bonnie Benwick, Deputy Food Editor, The Washington Post; Chef Ruth Gresser, President, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs; Joyce Zipperer, Artist; and Chef Nora Pouillon, Owner, Restaurant Nora. Moderated by Harriet Lesser, Curator. Free; but registration required, go here to sign up.
Check out EdibleDC.com or follow Edible on Twitter @EdibleDC to keep on top of other food-focused events throughout the DC area.
Andrew Marder is a writer living in Hyattsville, MD. He enjoys playing with his son, having dinner with his wife, and sitting quietly with good friends. When he's not awake, he's asleep.