Alexander Calder & Tricia Martin


Let me begin by saying I would cringe every year in grade school when we would embark on the dreaded gymnastics unit in P.E. class. Besides the fact that I couldn't do a cartwheel (I still can't do one to this day), it seemed like every task in the unit required a talent I struggled with: balance. Over the years, I've come realize what a pivotal role balance plays in our lives. Besides the need for balance when performing physical activities (i.e. riding a bike, walking in heels), we are told as a society to "eat a balanced diet" or to "find a balance between work and play." It is the common theme of balance that brings these two artists together in Mashup #5.

Alexander Calder's most famous contribution to the world of art was his invention of the mobile. A mobile is a kinetic sculpture, where particular parts may be moved by wind or other forces, sometimes with the help of cranks and pulleys. Most often, a mobile is hung from above (think the devices one hangs over a crib to entertain a baby) and depends greatly on equilibrium. Calder also created the stabile sculpture, which is defined as a self-supporting, static abstract sculpture. Some of his stabiles were inspired by animals, like The Crab. One of Calder's stabiles, Bent Propeller, was built for the World Trade Center and was stationed there for 30 years until September 11th.

Find balance was pivotal in Calder's art and is also the focus of Tricia Martin's creations in her blog Eating is Art. I discovered this site through my friend Sophie and have loved reading it since that day. Martin, who holds a Master's in Fine Arts and Design, transforms the process of cooking and baking into beautiful, interactive forms of art. I love how she tries to stay true to the ingredients she uses (most often natural, whole foods) and employs them in a creative way. She is also the creator of Pietopia, a yearly writing/baking competition in Portland, Oregon (a city I have LOVED for many years). The premise: What would your life taste like it if were a pie? Entrants are encouraged to answer the question in a short essay and supply the recipe for their pie. I love this challenge of stretching your imagination. [On a side note: Another one of Tricia's projects that I adore is The Favorite Series, where she creates a full sensory experience for an individual and a person of his/her choice. It's amazing.]

For this Mashup I decided to answer the Pietopia question for Alexander Calder, playing on his need for balance. I knew the recipe would have to incorporate the equilibrium of sweet and savory, smooth and crunchy. The recipe: Peaches and Almond Cream Pie. The challenge: Creating a stabile to go on top. I don't make pies often, usually because after making them there's that problem of actually eating them. Now, Pat and I could probably devour a whole pie, but neither of us, nor our waistlines, are up to that proposition. I also loathe having to throw out food. So I decided I would make this pie for my parents' annual Fourth of July cookout.

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light's Apple and Walnut Cream Tart. I love peaches and since they are in season, I figured it was an appropriate substitute. The pie came out pretty good, although in the future, I think I would substitute a more substantial crust (possibly cinnamon graham cracker) in place of the phyllo dough. This stabile, an American Bald Eagle, was created from a pineapple, toothpicks, and blueberries (for the eyes). Trying to sculpt this creation was tough and made me appreciate food artists even more than I already do. Food is such a hard medium to work with! Depending on how ripe a food item is can greatly affect its structural capabilities (in other words, this pineapple was damn juicy!). In the end, I think my family appreciated their artsy dessert, or at least, fed my face with false compliments. :)

Happy Fourth of July!

Peaches and Almond Cream Pie
(adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 2/3 cup chopped almond

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup whole milk

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Cooking spray

  • 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

  • 5 cups sliced peaches (about 2 pounds)

  • 1 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place almonds in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until toasted; cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Place almonds in a food processor; process until smooth (about 1 minute), scraping sides of bowl once.

Combine almond butter, 1/2 cup sugar, milk, salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, coat sheet with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixture.

Fold phyllo sheet in half lengthwise to form a 13 x 8 1/2-inch rectangle. Gently press folded phyllo sheet into prepared pan, allowing ends to extend over edges; coat phyllo with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo sheets and cinnamon mixture, arranging folded phyllo sheets in a crisscross pattern. Fold edges of phyllo under.

Combine sliced peaches and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl. Arrange on top of phyllo crust.

Pour egg mixture over peaches. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until center is set. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Eric Carle & Georgia O'Keeffe


There are two books that stand out in my memory as my "go-to" childhood reads: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. While Dr. Seuss' cadence of words was captivating, it was Eric Carle's visual compositions that completely memorized me. His ability to create a collage that was original (he makes his own papers) and told a story is truly fantastic. When I flip through this book today, I find that I love it just as much as I did when I was four. I love how Eric Carle uses the book pages in a creative way to propel the story. If you are ever in Amherst, Massachusetts, I totally suggest visiting The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It is definitely well worth the trip and you will not be disappointed.

When I was a senior in high school, I had the privilege of being selected to enroll in "Senior Portfolio," a year-long course focused around creating a portfolio for admission into art school. This was my favorite class during my four years of high school. I became very close to my classmates and my art teacher, Mrs. Zoglio. For my birthday, she gave me Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket, because she felt that it reflected who I was as a person, as a student, and as an artist. It was one of the kindest presents I'd ever received. I still own the book and every so often flip through it to remember Senior Port. I learned so much about history and technique, and I really challenged myself artistically. One artist I studied who stuck with me with was Georgia O'Keeffe.

Besides being a strong woman artist in a male-dominated area, she also brought American art to Europe and lived until she was 98. The woman was a pretty kick-ass lady. She would camp out in the deserts of New Mexico so she could feel close to the environment, battling winds that would knock over her easel and the scotching sun, which would force her to crawl under her car for respite. O'Keeffe was best known for her abstract paintings of rocks, skulls, flowers, and the desert. I must note, it took a while to find a painting to include in this blog that did not resemble female genitalia (O'Keeffe repeatedly denied that she painted her flowers to look vaginal...I'm not quite buying it.) We watched a documentary on her in Senior Portfolio, which was shot towards the end of her life. I would suggest renting it - she really is one-of-kind.

So Mashup #4 uses the collage technique of Eric Carle to create an O'Keeffe abstract floral composition.

Materials: Handmade collage papers made from paint and tissue paper; illustration board; X-acto knife and cutting board; paintbrush & glue; image to work from & tracing paper; pastel pencil.

1. The first item of business was to create my tissue papers for collage. Eric Carle has a great step-by-step presentation on his website showing how to do this. [Click here to watch.] I will say, after creating these papers I respect Eric Carle even more than I did before - this job was so tedious!

2. I then traced out the major pieces of my image and cut the illustration board (on which I would glue my tissue paper) to the correct size.

3. Working with my tracing, I placed it over one of the pieces of tissue paper and cut out the image. I then glued this cutout onto the illustration board, using watered-down glue and a paint brush. Working in batches I continued the process until the entire image was glued on the board.

4. To define some of the petals I used a pastel pencil to outline the contour lines.

I did enjoy the process of the mashup, although I'm still on the fence about the final product. I'm not sure if you can tell it's a flower, but then again, at least I know it's not a vagina.

Shepard Fairey & Bob Dylan


When I was a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, I would frequently take a walk up the campus hill to the Emporium, a one-block stretch of coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. On my way back to the dorm, Bess Eaton iced coffee in hand, I would wait to cross the street at the corner of Fortin and Upper College Roads. That's where I first saw it - right on the stop sign, staring ominously back at me. While I never followed the world of wrestling, I did recognize his face from my all time favorite movie, The Princess Bride. Andre the Giant's mug was on a sticker and he was telling me to OBEY. You may not have heard of Shepard Fairey from his Obey Giant and Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers, but I'm positive you are familiar with at least one piece of his work. Recall the President Obama HOPE poster, plastered everywhere during his campaign? That was Fairey.

Shepard Fairey holds many titles, among them are street artist, DJ, and guerrilla marketer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he once owned a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island where he produced T-shirt and sticker prints. Fairey has come a long way from his Rhode Island days - he has served on the boards of nonprofit organizations, worked on campaigns for Pepsi, and designed cover art for The Black Eyed Peas and The Smashing Pumpkins. He has also been arrested numerous times for displaying his art, his message, on public property. His technique centers largely around graphic and poster design, silkscreening, and stenciling.

From what I can recall, the first time I heard Bob Dylan sing was in my grandmother's car. I was 13 and we were listening to the Forrest Gump soundtrack. There she sat, mimicking her best Bob Dylan voice while singing, "Everybody must get stoned!" It was quite an audio/visual experience. My love for Bob has flourished since that day and picking my favorite Dylan song would be like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. They each hold a special place in my heart for different reasons. I view him as a poet - when I really sit down and read the lyrics, I am so amazed at the fluidity of his writing and how important every word feels.

As I said before, there are too many Dylan favorites for me to choose from, but I did decide on "It's alright, Ma (I'm only bleeding)" for this mashup. I feel this song really captures the mood of the time period - the anger, resentment, and just an utter disappointment at life. I wanted to capture this mood somehow in a Fairey-esque painting, but really struggled in selecting a subject. I had Pat pose for a few reference photos until I finally came to the realization that I knew the man speaking in this song - a man who is suffering and insecure on the inside but puts on an "It's Alright Ma" bandaid to cover it all on the outside - Don Draper from my favorite series Mad Men. The character of Don Draper puzzles me so much! I hate him, I love him, he disgusts me, he enchants me - I can't figure him out! I watch him and think that he knows he is sinking, that the lies he tells and the secrets he keeps are pulling him under - yet the mirage of a life he has built somehow keeps him afloat. As I read through the lyrics of the song, the following section really stood out and justified my choice of using Don in my mashup.

"Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to. "

[To view the entire lyrics to this song click here.]

This mashup was quite a challenge for me. I'm no painter and I knew painting Don Draper was going to be tough. I started out by searching photos on the internet that I felt could be represent the song. I knew I also wanted to include the "falling ad man" that is featured in the opening credits of the show. Upon deciding on an image, I sketched it out, based solely on the shadows and highlights. From there, I transferred by sketch onto the canvas using carbon paper (Yes! They still make carbon paper and you can buy it at Staples. If you want, you can also purchase graphite transfer paper from your local craft store.) I then chose the four colors I knew I wanted to use and worked section by section applying the color. The project took a little over a week to complete. I think it would have taken longer but I was diligent in my quest to complete it, spending many nights painting on the living room floor (this girl's gotta buy an easel).

I hope you like it - I know I'm pretty I just have to figure out where to hang it.

Shepard Fairey artwork courtesy of

Bob Dylan lyrics courtesy of

M.C. Escher & Rembrandt


This first Mashup Challenge comes from none other than my boyfriend Pat. I should note that my relationship with Pat is built from a strong foundation of love, friendship, humor, and extreme competition. This obsessive (and sometimes insane) need to compete with each other can be displayed through lunchtime games of Boggle, nightly viewings of Jeopardy, and our most recent hobby, to outdo each other in geography (i.e. naming as many countries as we can from a particular continent, European cities, state capitals, etc.).

A few weeks ago I was describing this blog to Pat with the utmost enthusiasm, explaining to him how I would encourage readers to challenge me with an artist pairing. Without skipping a beat he says, "I've got one for you. M.C. Escher."

"No problem," I think to myself. I had been thinking of an Escher-esque piece for a while.

"Yeah, M.C. Escher and Rembrandt."

"Rembrandt?" I squawk. "Are you freakin kidding me?"

It took some time, some research, and some general self-talk of "Yes, I can do this," to finally commit to this mashup.

Maurits Cornelis Escher was a Dutch mathematical master who loved to explore the areas of architecture and geometry in his pieces. He worked predominately in lithographs and woodcuts. Escher loved to manipulate perspective, repetition, and reflections. I could spend hours looking at one Escher print and never fully comprehend the intricacy of his work. The patterns are never-ending and the relationships between every single object within the print are so complex, my brain hurts even thinking about it now. What is so amazing to me is that Escher had no mathematical training -he relied solely on his intuition- and yet, mathematicians and scientists love to ponder over his work to this day.

One of Escher's most famous artistic constructions is the tessellation. A tessellation is a sort of tiling, where figures cover a plane without overlap or gaps. To me, a tessellation refers to that horrible Honors Geometry project I had to complete in 9th grade, for which I received at B-. Geometry and I do not have a strong relationship and I felt that this mashup was my chance to overcome our feeble past.

Rembrandt, also Dutch, is considered one of the greatest portrait painters in art history. These portraits were either commissioned by others, self-portraits, or Biblical scenes. Rembrandt is often noted as having the ability to combine human and spiritual aspects seamlessly in one painting. This initial biography proved to be quite problematic for me. I am not a strong portrait painter and I had absolutely no clue how a portrait could be tessellated. It was in my research that I discovered Rembrandt, like Escher, was also a printmaker and his prints specifically focused on Biblical stories and allegories.

Ah allegories, one of this English teacher's favorite words. An allegory is sort of symbolic story - the representation of an abstract idea through characters or events in a narrative. [Think Aesop's fables.]

This new insight into Rembrandt's artistic style allowed me a little creative freedom in this mashup. Two of my favorite allegorical stories, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Lord of the Flies by William Golding, would provide me with symbols to tessellate: an armadillo and a conch shell.

A week of recycling graph paper, re-sharpening pencils and grumbling, "Tessellations suck," I was beginning feel like I was back in 9th grade. Luckily, I found a wonderful website on creating tessellations and found a loophole: The Gap Method. Yes, this method doesn't really account for angles and shapes, and I didn't need a protractor to accomplish the task, but heck, it's still a tessellation.

As for the DIY portion of this post, I have to say, I created the final piece in Adobe Illustrator, using my graphic design background as a crutch. I did still have to create the armadillo and conch shell illustrations to tessellate, which are featured below.

While this was my first mashup challenge, I have to say, it was quite the "uber" challenge....but Pat, I still won.