A one-woman show of my paintings opened at Commonweal in Bolinas, California (August 14 - October 31, 2019) on a Saturday in mid-August. It’s called Daily Bread, from a quote I’ve always loved of Emerson’s: “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” As I wrote in the introduction to the show,
“The sky is the daily bread of my imagination—always there, ever-changing, never static, vast, wondrous, soul-nourishing, full of mystery and awe.”
“The sky is a visual way to think about life—and to keep perspective on our own experience. It’s so much greater than the sum of its myriad parts, overarching everything, seductive with the constant movement of the atmosphere, enchanting as it keeps us engaged in the present moment.”
Having my own show, at Commonweal, where I had cooked for the Cancer Help Program 20 years ago, was an astounding experience where, in the healing space of Commonweal, my paintings took on a magical life of their own.
I’d never seen these 13 new paintings together before, much less in the beautiful 1,500 square-foot gallery at Commonweal. I couldn’t truly know how they would look and feel until I hung the show in the gallery the Monday before, and until the people were there to interact with them—people who are really special in my life, along with memories of people who have passed.
The opportunity to display my art is similar for me to serving soup. I create a soup, make it from scratch, take it off the stove, put in a bowl and serve it to someone. Once the bowl leaves my hands, it’s no longer my own. It becomes that person's experience. Like years ago when I created my signature soup, Magic Mineral Broth to nourish participants in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. As I conjured up the first batches, working with a deep intention and the alchemy of flavor and healing, participants wandered into the kitchen in search of that beguiling aroma. As I served mugs full of the magical broth, I watched as their faces expressed their inner joy, that involuntary spasm of vocal delight: yummmm.
It was very similar to the artwork hanging in the gallery, just down the dirt road from where I used to cook. I created these paintings from a deep part of myself, then they became something for the viewer to experience, to connect with, and to savor on their own.
Waz Thomas, the co-founder of the Cancer Help Program who called way back when to ask me to cook for the retreat and to whom I dedicated my book The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, said, “Rebecca—I would know you anywhere in these paintings because it’s the way you make soup!”
Just as with making soup—the most elemental and alchemical of all culinary mediums— making a painting becomes an opportunity to explore intentions, experiment intuitively, and to feel into the colors and textures. Yet I do have a template or system of how I create soups and how I paint, which are surprisingly similar.
I choose my ingredients. I prep them out. I choose my spices or my colors. I layer them. I find my way to an expression of life. And whether creating soup or painting, my intention is to nourish someone, so they savor inspiration, an experience, a memory.
For me, there is this sense of feeling about being in the kitchen and being in the studio, making soup or making paintings, that is atmospheric and ethereal, yet process-driven. Creative, but within a framework. I don’t just throw everything in a pot and hope. The onions are cut correctly, added to a pot of warmed oil… they start clarifying, turning golden… the spices go in… there’s a process of layering the flavor.
Behind the stove and in the studio I have carefully developed flavors and colors that I work with, not pulling on everything under the sun each time I create something new. I try to work with the bare minimum to create the maximum sensory experience.
We live in a world where we are sensory-overloaded. It can be overwhelming. There is so much going on. We feel like we’re all over the place. We don’t need to be. Narrowing it down has allowed me to be clear, intensely creative and productive.
Can you pare it down to something clear and do-able? Can you become a nourisher for yourself and your family? Paring it down to your essentials? You’re the maker. Then you step out of the way and let the magic happen! Now it’s their experience.
Nourishment is the center that makes the wheel spin.
I have that true north. For the last 20 years, it’s been a curiosity to help people find nourishment and to find nourishment in my own life. That’s the thing that gets me up in the morning. Where is inspiration going to come from today? How am I going to receive it? That’s what motivates me.
Now I am having the opportunity to show my art at Commonweal which has been the fulcrum of my life, where the wheel began to spin and keeps on spinning!
Try these nourishing recipes!
In palette colors and flavor prints you’re sure to enjoy. :)
This is my Rosetta stone of soup, a broth that can be transformed to meet a myriad nutritional needs, serving as everything from a delicious sipping tea to the powerful base for more hearty soups and stews. So no matter what a person’s appetite, it can provide a tremendous nutritional boost. This rejuvenating liquid, chock-full of magnesium, potassium, and sodium, allows the body to refresh and restore itself. I think of it as a tonic, designed to keep you in tip-top shape.
Here’s a recipe where, if it’s leafy and green, it’ll work. I use chard and collards, but kale or spinach would be brilliant too—in fact, put it this way: if you think Popeye would eat it, it’s in. The flavor enhancers are onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest, with a yellow potato thrown in for creaminess. The whole pot gets blended, and you’ll swear you’re eating emeralds (albeit luscious ones).
I always laugh when I hear people raving about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course they love it…it’s just pizza deconstructed! My favorite way of making this soup is to head to the farmer’s market and gather all the bruised heirlooms I can find (you can get a lot for pennies on the dollar). I roast the tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt and just a hint of dark amber maple syrup to balance out the tomatoes’ natural acidity, blend for a minute and serve with a dollop of Many Herb Drizzle. Voila! A dream of a soup, as pretty as a picture. :)
Sometimes the colors that nature comes up with blow me away. Take the ruby red beets and red cabbage in this soup; they’re as brilliant as the dahlias that grow in my backyard. So, too, is their taste, and when combined with sautéed onion, fennel, and celery, plus cumin, coriander, and caraway, the result is simply luscious.