By: Léa MIRANDA, Intern, National Academy of Design, New York
On a Tuesday afternoon, the sculptor Pat Lasch welcomed me into her luminous and quiet studio, on the second floor of the National Academy of Design’s building in New York. She is currently working on new pieces, which will be exhibited at the Meredith Ward Fine Art Gallery from September 20 through November 13, 2018. “People describe me as a feminine feminist” she said while raising up one of her new sculptures: a washy pink cake with tints of nacreous green and white. Covered by intricate, hand-made, piped-paint lace –the artist’s signature–, roses, pearls, and other shiny and delicate elements, her cake sculptures are the consecration of hours of work and an impeccable discipline. I pointed out that her work was similar to a monk’s labor. She burst out laughing and invited me to have a seat.
Léa Miranda: How and to what extent did your relationship with your father -who was a German pastry chef- influence the way that you work?
Pat Lasch: My relationship with my father is important because I learned his trade, but I was more interested in time. For me, cakes mark time, they mark celebrations of our life: our birthdays, our weddings. I also made a series of black cakes because nobody makes us a cake when we die.
LM: Is that a way for you to expose ordinary and everyday life objects in museums?
PL: I like the focus, yes. They are ordinary objects, everyone experiences them, and they are an important part of our lives. I think it is a very feminist view point, because women are the ones who, most of the time, make the cakes for the family and organize the social events that go around. On the top of that, I just love doing these works! I was trained very young, at thirteen.
LM: You were trained at making cakes or making cakes as artworks?
PL: At making cakes! Nobody that I knew did cakes as artwork. Now people do because I started, in the late 1970s. I made real cakes from thirteen to nineteen, but I was also going to art school. There, I realized a lot of things. Let me give you a wonderful quote from Antonin Carême, a French pastry chef from the early nineteenth century: « there are five branches of fine arts: there is painting, there is sculpture, there is poetry, there is music and there is pastry making of which architecture is a sub branch ».
LM: One of the first things that you said to me when I arrived today was that you are a “feminine feminist.” What does it mean?
PL: I love to make beautiful things. I love looking at them, I love looking at things that delight my eyes. But sometimes they are hard… Look at my new black cake! It looks like it is toxic, venomous, but it is also very beautiful.
I notice that in life many things become very beautiful when they decay. Sometimes you see a tree that is diseased, and it’s so interesting. I remember the last day before my father died, I just want to paint his face. He became so exquisite! It was only in that last day -I didn’t notice it before- when the blood was withdrawing of his face, that he looked translucent. It was very magical, because he was beautiful and dying.
LM: But do you think only women can make these beautiful objects? Do you think art is gendered?
PL: Most of the time I cannot imagine a man making these.
LM: Even as your father was doing his pastries?
PL: My father taught me, but I took off on my own things and made wonderful cake sculptures, just like a pastry chef! I did think men were supposed to cook for me, but they didn’t! What a disappointment! She laughed.
LM: For you, what does feminism mean when it comes to art?
PL: Expressing your soul with the experience of the other ones. For me, it’s about expressing corrections, wishes of what I could have done in different ways. My work has a lot of emotions, and it’s calling out to the universe. You know, I really like pink. But I also made series of black cakes and I wrote letters to the Dead in 1998. Everyone experiences death, because everything dies.
LM: What kind of impact do you hope that your work has? To new generations? To women?
PL: I hope my work leaves people with a sense of joy, a sense of fleetingness of life. Both are beauty, and they are difficult.