Tell us about your exhibition.
This Window Works exhibition has a purpose—the celebration of Artpace’s 21st year. When I was approached to create this exhibition I took it on as a challenge because it had specific criteria—it needed to somehow be a celebration, to occupy the Window Works space, and to be edible. The wall created for this exhibition is an image that says “Happy 21st Birthday, Artpace” in the red, black, and white of Artpace’s branding. I cut circles from the wall to produce fake drywall birthday cakes that are directly referencing the real, edible cakes I’m also making, to be eaten at the opening. I wanted to find a way to connect the real cakes with these fake drywall cakes, so I made dummy cakes that are also fake, like the drywall cakes, but they have real icing. The drywall cakes are decorated with piped on drywall mud. When the cakes are cut open you can see the layers of drywall, which completes the illusion they are cakes without denying what they are made of, which is important. There’s this continuum of the real cakes and fake drywall cakes, which connects the real cakes to the wall and, by extension, to Artpace.
Anytime I make something out of a wall, it’s really about construction, architecture, or the institution. The idea is about turning conceptual space into physical space, that’s where the title comes in—Biography Construction Site (Cakes). This is a celebration of Artpace’s history and biography, as well as my own biography. The technique of sculpting from drywall originated from my residency at Artpace in 1999. I thought it was important to use the same technique again in this exhibition, so there’s a continuum. The whole constructed nature of the cakes is highlighted because they are built layer by layer, like all of us—we’re all constructs built layer by layer of experience.
Tell us about your experience working as a baker.
I paid off my graduate school student loans working at HEB in the bakery department. I began learning techniques from my co-workers and became fascinated with cake as a material. Eventually one of the cake makers left and they hired me. I was a cake decorator for seven years with HEB. I honed my skills there and they let me do anything I wanted—they were really good to me. But eventually I decided I needed to move on. So I’ve been decorating cakes now for 20 years.
I’ve wanted to somehow combine the cake making with my art making and have done a few projects with it in the past. I fantasized about making drywall cake for over 15 years. I’m attracting to the material because it’s a construction material—it’s walls. I have a fantasy about eating buildings—taking in architecture, physically. So this is a way to do it symbolically. By making cakes out of the drywall and also making real cakes, there’s an implication that you’re eating the building, by having this stream of different kinds of cakes that lead you back to the wall, and ultimately to Artpace.
Why do you want to help celebrate Artpace?
Artpace is significant to me because it serves as a conduit between San Antonio and the rest of the world—I think that’s its most important function, besides funding artists’ projects. It’s important to me because the project I did here when I was a resident in 1999 was a springboard for the rest of my career. So I’m glad Artpace is still here. Certainly for me, it was Artpace’s willingness to let me tear into the architecture of the studio—I made a big mess. Most everything I asked to do, I was told, “yes, yes, yes.”