2 hours

The question that remains is: can this type of making of cakes exist outside of art? If I were to go into the farmer’s market in Union Square, set up a stand and just give away cake, would  this still be seen as art? An act of kindness? Would the venders scold me for not purchasing a booth? Would I be arrested for my sweet gesture? Then again, how important is it for these cakes to be perceived as artwork? Can the same effect still be achieved when these cakes are served at a critique or found in a gallery?

© Danielle Goldsmith

Moving away from the traditional 9” pan I made two different cakes for open studios – one in the shape of a sphere, the other a book.  The sphere was a simple white cake covered with fondant that had been graffitied all over. The cake read, “The way up and they way are down are one in the same” with colors bleeding into one another.  The book cake was a 24” piece painted yellow with text on top reading “This is a terrible book”.  When the cake was cut, the quote fragmented into such sayings as “This is terrible”, “His is terrible”, and so forth, making the cake a social sculpture for strangers to gather at and eat from. The most exciting moment wasn’t the preparing, cutting, or eating of the cake – it was afterwards, when I saw the remnants of the original piece.  Like Daniel Spoerri’s Snare Pictures, the cake and fondant are found in chance positions (in order or disorder) and are fixed (‘snared’) as they are found. Only the picture plane has changed.[1]

Daniel Spoerri, Sevilla-Serie Nr. 29 1992 © Daniel Spoerri

I used adhesive to mount the fondant pieces and remnants of the cake on a gold serving plate that is placed on to a wall at eye level.  What was once horizontal, on a tabletop, is now vertical on a wall. In doing this, I questioned if I was consumed by the idea of placing food in the art world. Rauschenberg said “Art is what an artist says it is”, meaning that the context of a piece is defined with the invisible institution of art.  The context changes the way we look at it and when we say it is Art with a capital ‘A’.  We made the right choice to become Artists as we hold the steering wheel. Whatever we say it is, it is.


[1] Spoerri, Daniel. “Snared Picture”, 1960-2008. Collection Helga Hahn, Cologne.

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Receive with Simplicity (Wet Blanket: 2 days, 1 Night)

© Danielle Goldsmith

I have been writing and collecting timeless and classic quotes since I can remember. In this case, I chose Rashi’s words of wisdom, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.”[1] Rashi was a French medieval rabbi who first wrote commentary on the Talmud (a form of record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law and ethics).  This quotes is enduring, and it has served as a simple guideline that has stayed with me for years.

With the extra fondant I had from the first cake, I began to knead it, roll it out, and began to write on it.  I didn’t want the fondant to rely on just being an epidermis of the cake and have that be sole purpose.  In blue I wrote, “Receive with” and in green I wrote, in a separate space, the word “simplicity”. In red, I wrote the Hebrew in an informal handwriting, rather than print as in Hebrew. I was first taught to write in print as it is written in that manner in the Torah and then in script, which is more everyday.  I dripped water on to the surface to see how the food coloring and sugary consistency of the fondant would hold up.  The water caused the coloring to bleed and the fondant to melt away.  The delicate consistency made me want to preserve its value, preserve the integrity of the piece, so I draped the fondant over a salt shaker in the shape of an egg and stuck it in the fridge over night. The next morning, I pulled the shaker out. The writing on the small, delicate object is not legible, but I know the quote is there.  This Torah portion comes from the Chumash saying

Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God: Conduct yourself with Him with simplicity and depend on Him, and do not inquire of the future; rather, accept whatever happens to you with [unadulterated] simplicity and then, you will be with Him and to His portion.[2]

I do not expect to know the outcome of my life or my work, which is the beauty of it all.


[1] Yitzhaki, Shlomo (Rashi).  Sapirstein Edition Rashi: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated and Elucidated, Vols. 1-5 [Box Set, Student Size]: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 18:13. Artscroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd 1999.

[2] Yitzhaki, Shlomo. Chumash with Rashi for Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 http://www.chabad.org/parshah/torahreading.asp?AID=36236&p=4&v=ds

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To Know is Not Enough (4 Hours)

2010 © Danielle Goldsmith

2010 © Danielle Goldsmith

Non Satis Scire (To know is not enough)[1].  This was the million-dollar question for every perspective freshman at Hampshire College who had to incorporate this quote into their application essay.  This quote has haunted me for the past six years and I’ve never known what to make of it.  I thought, what if this quote was found out of context, would the idea still be read as complete or set in stone?No, the viewer has an opportunity to infer his  or her own meaning into the piece.

2010 © Danielle Goldsmith

2010 © Danielle Goldsmith

I gravitated towards cakes as I have always had a love for the domestic and the generous nature of feeding someone else. As someone who was formally trained in fresco painting, I am used to working on damp surfaces quickly. Using the same technique as a fresco, I made a senopia, a cartoon on tracing paper that has holes punctured in it to make sure the cartoon or in this case the portrait, has the correct proportions to the original drawing.  Quickly on a hardened butter cream surface, I paint a face in 20 minutes or less, before the whole surface dries. Also, I included my first portrait on a cake in my application to graduate school and felt that I had to act upon this investigation to see where it could lead me.  What, I admit started as a way to fill my class requirements turned into curiosity unleashed.  I began to do what I know best- bake.

Making a basic yellow cake.

Ingredients: cake flour, baking powder, salt, butter (softened), sugar, eggs (at room temperature) vanilla extract/bean, and milk

Pour into 9” Circular pans

Put in oven in the middle rack for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees

Let cake cool for 10 minutes

Flip each pan onto a wire rack (so that the exposed cake side will flip onto the rack)

Let completely cool

Flip one section of the cake onto a serving plate

Cover with a light frosting

Grab top layer of the other cake layer and place it on top of the lightly frosted bottom

Stick in the fridge until the frosting hard hardened (overnight)

Open up a box/tub of fondant

On a heavily corn starched table top roll the fondant out using a wine bottle

Once the fondant is rolled out gently pick it up and drape it over the cake.

Trim off excess fondant using a sharp knife at the base of the cake.

Begin cross-hatching, making lines this time to a half an inch long.

Rather than just relying on one color, add two others (red, yellow, and orange.)

In green, go over the hatch marks with the quote “TO KNOW IS NOT ENOUGH”.

I pack the cake up and head to school.  Once outside school, a man stopped me and asked if I was carrying a pillow and if so, wherever did I find it.  I reassured him I would not carry a 9” diameter pillow in a plastic cake carrying case. Once I was in my studio, I didn’t know where to begin with the class.  As the class entered my studio, I just began to cut the cake and serve people.  I asked a friend to photograph every moment, every cut, and every bite.  As the cake was devoured the quote began to fragment.  At first it read, “TO KNOW IS NOT ENOUGH” to “NOW IS NOT ENOUGH” to “NOT ENOUGH” then finally to “ENOUGH”.

Just as I would follow instructions to make a cake, the viewers/ consumers of the work follow the fragmented poem as recipes, a series of instructions. What these recipes are describing are ideas from life or simply just how to consume the piece and where to end.

Another cake I made read “Each morning’s awakening requires the reproduction of a self that has been deconstructed in sleep.” [2] I read this quote while reading over the shoulder of a media studies student.  I noticed myself gravitating towards the quote before I even comprehended it meaning.  I like the fluidity of how the words sound and how they looked next to each other.  I then thought about when we sleep; our dreams make us feel deeply about things we cannot face in our consciousness. We can, however meditate on the everyday. Alison Knowles is engrossed with meditating on the everyday.  One of her works was based on her habit of eating a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast with lettuce and butter (no mayo), with a large glass of buttermilk or a cup of soup at the same time everyday, creating a cerebral relationship with food. [3] By giving these cakes directions to follow the viewers have a choice to think about what they are about to consume – or whether they want to consume it at all. By having their consumption be not simply about sustenance, pleasure or celebration, my viewers are forced to consider cake in a different way.  Since it has now been elevated to this status of art their perceptions about the functions of cake changes.


[1] Dakin, Winthrop.  The Motto Memo, http://www.hampshire.edu/archives/3231.htm May. 1,1968

[2] White, Harrison. Identity and Control: How Social Formations Emerge. Princeton University Press, 1992

[3] Alison Knowles Journal of the Identical Lunch, Nova Broadcast Press 1971.

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3months (Red Wood Grain)

I am interested in re-ordering the temporal metrics of everyday life. What do we believe is worth our time? What else could I be doing? These questions preoccupy me as I struggle to produce artwork under the pressure of the clock.  In such a fast-paced society, it feels as though time’s value is measured by how efficiently production can be sped up yet little to no time is spent slowing down. The use of wood within my piece titled 3 months reacts against what might be a constant push for greater efficiency. Rather than focusing purely on the decision-making of the product, I prefer to follow a disciplined ritual.

Red wood grain

Danielle Goldsmith, 3months (Red Wood Grain), 2009 © Danielle Goldsmith

Place the wood panel on the floor in front of you.  Straddle the wood, hover over it, and begin to draw. Make marks roughly a centimeter long, one per second. Stop each line section after 10 seconds go by and begin hatching the lines in a different direction, opposing the following group.  Forty minutes go by and you begin to feel eager to finish the single fragment of wood.  Start to challenge yourself, making bets in your head.  If you can finish this section within the half hour, you can buy yourself a coffee, take a 10-minute break and go for a cigarette.  Once the small section is finished, forget about the previous conversation with yourself and move on to the following segment.

Allow the grain of the wood to guide the drawing. Let something organic guide you without forgetting your fidelity to exactness and accuracy. The use of this pattern is to be read as clocks of everyday life, an informal documentation of time; what I do with the mundane.

For an hour, I cannot break out of concentration. This attentiveness to the process of producing the work allows me to enter a nearly meditative place- not a mindless place, but a location of heavy thought; it becomes paralyzing and all I can do is repeat the pattern along the grain of the wood.  I do make all the decisions, but it’s not entirely up to me; I am the wood’s facilitator.

I become On Kawara using a similar process to his “Date Paintings,” also known as “Today Series”.[1] Although I am not using simple white letting against a dark background containing the date, nor am I destroying the work I cannot finish within that very day, I do feel a sense of remorse if I cannot finish in time. I take the mindless habit of doing, and turn that into process of creation.

On Kawara, January 1, 1984 from the Today Series 1984 © On Kawara

I privilege the process of composition above the completion of the work. In this technique, the act of making suspends time’s passage; the maker is not conscious of the beginning or end of the compositional process in relation to the work as a whole.  Just like deep breathing, the process of making the piece feels meditative and natural.  Just as John Waters suspend his reflection of time on a note card, I do so with the mark making of time.


[1] Kawara, On. “January 1, 1984 from the Today Series”  1966-2006. Dia Beacon, Beacon, New York.

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right now

“5 years after you quit smoking your risk of stroke is like someone who’s never smoked…but right now, you’re a stroke waiting to happen”[1] That’s what is written above me as I ride the R train. This Public Service Announcement made me reflect upon John Waters and how he maintains his warped obsessions. Mr. Waters quit smoking years ago, but still marks every day since his last cigarette. Each day he takes a moment to briefly reflect on his progress by adding a number to his tally. I saw him once give a talk with Robert Storr at the 92nd St. Y.  He pulled out a note card and read off the number: 2,309- the total days since his last cigarette. [2]


[1]QuitSmokingSupport.com. What Are The Benefits of Quitting Smoking? http://www.quitsmokingsupport.com/benefits-printable.htm

[2] Water, John. “Memoirs: Life after the smoking ban” http://www.helium.com/items/481761-memoirs-life-after-the-smoking-ban

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Where I come from

TS Elliot wrote in his Four Quartets,
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable

One could consider that my art now started at this point. My most recent development began with a consideration of time, and as obsessions with the future and efficiency have grown, I have come back to the only thing we truly have: the present. My focus on this only thing we possess has caused me to focus ever more on the process of art making, to start to privilege the action above the end result. Not surprisingly, this has led to the increased use of not only chance and an organic development in my work but also the inclusion of the viewer into my process. I undertake to explore my use of time, with my wood grain drawings and my fresco like use of fondant. My recent work with cake making, especially as it takes a more performative direction, continues to help me discover how we make art.

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