REDMILK MEETS THE NEW YORKER ARTIST AND BAKER LEXIE SMITH. COOKING AND ART COME TOGETHER IN HER VISION TO BRING US TO EXPLORE HER CREATIVE REALITY.
Tell us who is Lexie Smith and what has been your artistic journey:
I’m a baker and artist from New York. I grew up in a small town just north of Manhattan and began working in the city at 15. I wrote incessantly from a young age, and started baking when I was a teenager. The more I baked, the less I wrote. I eventually started drawing and making sculpture when I was in college, and stopped writing almost entirely after I graduated. I’ve recently gotten back into that practice, but only after many years dedicated to baking and making visual art. Now, the three seem to be converging in a way that makes sense.
Tell us something more about your artistic background:
I never wanted to be an artist, nor do I care to be an artist now. It so happens that I make things meant for people to gaze at, but I think this stubborn refusal is why I’m drawn most dominantly to bread. It is utilitarian and it eventually disappears. It’s modest and honest. My relationship to art has always been strained for its lack of both those components.
What are the main inspiration in your work?
All things sand colored, the desert itself, clay ovens, transformative qualities of heat, words, human tendencies, mid-century book design.
How would you describe your style?
As I’ve done in the past, as honest and dusty.
How important is the exploration of materials in your work?
Very. Each object, be it edible or visual, is informed almost entirely by the materials. For example, a year or two ago when I began working with wood and hand tools, an entirely new aesthetic and set of variables and potential outcomes opened up to me. Likewise, every loaf of bread is wholly dependent on the flour used, even the temperature of water and the air surrounding you. It’s why I’ve stopped drawing almost entirely- for me, ink and paper doesn’t allow for the same kinetic flow of ideas.
You often use food in your art – tell us something about the ingredients that you prefer to work with:
I don’t like to use processed ingredients – I’m becoming more and more obsessed with fully basic, fundamental, dirt-like materials, the foundation of peasant communities. It’s become almost entirely flour and water and salt, though I started by experimenting primarily with vinegars, starches, baking soda and sugars.
What led you to join the art world with the food?
I had no choice – it was the only way I could exist in both simultaneously. There was just a point when I felt fully suspended between the two in a kind of no man’s land and unable to engage in either, and it was appropriate, if not totally necessary, to marry them.
You work with different artistic media, how would you describe your work to someone that doesn’t know you?
I usually just say “I’m a baker”, and if they press me, I’ll talk about my art practice as a leg of my exploration with food. I don’t like to speak loudly about any art that I make, because for me it’s still very much in the process of becoming something whole. I’ll say, “I do a lot of things,” and if they don’t have to be anywhere for a while, I’ll start in on a more lengthy explanation.
Lexie’s motto is?
Take the next best step.