Comfort Food in the Luce Foundation Center

Anne Wilsey
Program Specialist for the Luce Foundation Center
September 1, 2020

When times get tough, there are two things that always make me feel better; food and art! As a Luce Foundation Center Program Specialist, I’ve spent hours feasting on the buffet of art available in SAAM’s visible storage area. This innovative public space offers visitors a chance to go behind the scenes and get a taste of the depth of our collection. There’s a little of everything here, from the serene marble sculptures of Edmonia Lewis, to the enigmatic creations of the Philadelphia Wireman. For those new to the Luce Center, I’ve prepared a menu of tasty works of art for every palette.

Craving a summer cookout?

They say all art tell us something about the artist. Here, we learn that Betty Spindler prefers to eat hotdogs without ketchup. She prepared this ceramic hotdog to her taste, with just mustard and relish!

Photograph of a large ceramic hot dog.

Betty Spindler, Hot Dog, 2000, glazed clay, Smithsonian American Art Museum 

Busy day? Pack a sandwich for the road!

Wayne Thiebaud, master of painting fluffy cakes and melty ice creams, manipulates the texture of his oil paint to evoke the textures of food. In Three Sandwiches, he kept his brushstrokes soft and porous for the slices of bread and added globs of yellow for the mustard.

An oil painting of three sandwiches by Wayne Thiebaud.

Wayne Thiebaud, Three Sandwiches, 1961, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Get ahead with some meal prep

Peter Blume painted the two sides of his personality in Vegetable Dinner. The woman on the left represents his love of freedom, while the woman on the right, calmly chopping vegetables, represents his domestic side.

An oil painting of two women.

Peter Blume, Vegetable Dinner, 1927, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Not in the mood to cook?

Forget chopping vegetables and enjoy an apple fresh from the tree instead. Leigh Palmer’s apples look good enough to eat!

An oil painting of a table with two apples on it.

Leigh Palmer, Striped Tablecloth with Two Apples, 1983, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick create luminous fruit with layers of colorful crushed glass. I hope you’re hungry, because their Green Apple is more than a foot tall!

A photograph of a large apple made of glass.

Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, Green Apple, 1994, glass, Smithsonian American Art Museum

A snack for the whole family

S. Seymour Thomas is best known for his paintings of President Woodrow Wilson. Here, he captures a somewhat younger subject. We can’t be sure what Little Paulus is eating, but it must be delicious. This little one is taking his meal very seriously!

An oil painting of a baby with his hand in a bowl.

S. Seymour Thomas, Little Paulus, no date, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

How about a cup of tea?

Luce Center is home to a wide variety of tea sets that would turn any brew into an adventure! Joan Takayama-Ogawa’s Tropical Island Tea Set celebrates the experience of exploring Hawaii’s coral reefs.

A ceramic tea pot made to resemble a coral reef.

Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Tropical Island Tea Set, 1996, white earthenware, glazes, and china paints, Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Luce Foundation Center is home to more than 3,000 works of art and the Luce Local Artist Series, which invites musicians and arts professionals from the DMV to showcase their talents.


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