Julia Sherman is an artist who uses salad as an unlikely way to search for answers to the question ‚Äúhow does one live a fulfilling, creative life?‚Äù. On her website Salad for President, Sherman hosts conversations with creative people that she admires, recorded while they make salad – a fun, humble and unassuming act in an art world that can be intimidating and pretentious. It’s an informal way to get to know her talented subjects as they¬†create edible compositions taking into account concept, colour, texture and taste. Each salad is a suggestion of their background, lifestyle or life’s work.
Sherman’s work has reached art institutions too. In 2014, she developed a salad garden at MoMA PS1 in her native New York. The rooftop garden was used as a public space to grow heirloom vegetables, and to stage performances and dinners. In 2015 she worked to install a second salad garden at the Los Angeles Getty Museum.¬†As a collection of events, recipes, photographs and interviews, Salad for President hopes to draw a meaningful connection between food, art and everyday obsessions.
If time and place were no obstacle, we asked Julia to share the salads she’d prepare for her favourite artists; acclaimed filmmaker Agn√®s Varda, comedic actress Amy Sedaris and radical pop artist and celebrated graphic designer Sister Corita Kent. In doing so she reveals more about herself and the journey she has taken to get where she is.
Agn√®s Varda is an incredible Belgian-French filmmaker, and her film Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse is one of my favorites. It is the story of French people who subsist off the leftover potatoes and crops in the fields and the jettisoned food of the Parisian markets. Agn√®s paints a portrait of these people who scour the earth making use of what others throw away, while weaving her personal reflection on her own mortality as an artist with the documentary form. The result is so intimate, positioning the filmmaker alongside her ‚Äòsubject‚Äô. Beyond her films, Agn√®s¬†has a delightful way of not-giving-a-fuck, bopping around town with bright red hair, or showing up to her own premiere dressed as a potato. So, for Agn√®s¬†I would make a French potato salad using fingerlings and haricots vert with a light shallot vinaigrette. Nothing over the top or pretentious, because we would be talking about what she is working on now, at the ripe age of 87.
Amy Sedaris was my hero growing up. Her show, Strangers with Candy, got me through high school (well, that and a considerable amount of marijuana). Amy was one of those public figures that was so far away but had the magic ability to give hope to kids like me, who didn‚Äôt fit in but had a feeling they had something to offer. Amy was living proof of a not so distant reality where a total weirdo might be celebrated, or even given their own TV show and book deal! When Amy came to speak at my college, I gifted her one of my ¬†photos of hundreds of rotting cupcakes piled high in my kitchen; a misguided art project born from my recent discovery of 3rd Wave Feminism. There is a cupcake tattoo on my wrist that followed suit. If I were to have the chance to make Amy a salad, I would do my best to reinvent a 1950s jello salad, the kind with fruit and/or veggies suspended throughout. I think there is hope to elevate this famously maligned dish, and if anyone would appreciate that, it would be Amy. I would ask her if she really did hang that photo I gave her in her kitchen, like she so generously proposed when I bashfully handed her the gift. If she said she did not, I wouldn‚Äôt blame her. But if she said she did, I could die knowing those 6 years of art school were worth every penny.
Sister Corita Kent was a radical nun, a beloved Pop Artist and far and away my favorite artist. She found artistic freedom within the constraints of her religious life, became a vociferous anti-war activist, and preached radical love and acceptance in the form of thousands of silkscreen prints and abstract experimental film. She was a gifted teacher, and broke every stereotype and mold of the the time. After learning about her work, I began a two year long project working with nuns, and even lived with a community in Connecticut for a few weeks. Nuns love to indulge in food, since other corporeal pleasures are off limits, and have been historically famous for the candies, sweets and even cheese made behind the walls of the cloister. For Sister Corita, I would make a mega Cobb Salad, one with extra cheese, maple baked bacon and medium boiled eggs. Then, I would follow this up with a big ol‚Äô slice of chocolate cake. Nuns NEVER skip dessert, and why should they?
Sherman‚Äôs ‚ÄúSalad For President: The Cookbook‚Äù will be published by Abrams Books in Spring 2017.