Saturday Salon - Sarah Kenney

Photograph created by Sarah Kenney

Following is the 10th in my ongoing series of 'Saturday Salons' - where I will continue introducing and sharing the work of other artists who I've met along my creative journeys here on this great world wide web.

Today - I am thrilled to be interviewing Sarah Kenney who has a way of transforming food into true art.  You can see her stunning mouth-watering work on her blog: Thyme.

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"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."

-Julia Childs

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Can you tell me what first ignited your passion for food as an art form?

Growing up in southern Louisiana, food was and is considered one of the main topics of conversation.  I spent many summers at my grandparent’s house following my grandmother’s maid, Rose, around by her apron strings.  There were no other children around so I hung out in the kitchen watching Rose cook all varieties of Cajun dishes.  I loved watching her old hands work, seeing her toothy smile spread wide, and sampling the handouts she was generous enough to give me.

 Living in New York City during my college years just continued to show me the expansiveness and cultural importance food plays in so many nationalities.  As our family began its travels to other countries, we thoroughly enjoyed the role food played in the every day beauty of people’s lives.

Can you speak to where you learned to create such beauty when you cook?

Last year we took our teens on a tour of the Louvre. What I enjoyed most were the Renaissance pictures of still life. A simple bowl of fruit sitting on a plain table in an open window I found irresistibly beautiful and alluring. The mood of quiet and simplicity that these paintings create is one that I enjoy trying to capture in my own photography.

I am also captivated by the many British sereis on Masterpiece Theater that depict country lifestyles during the 1800's like "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens and "Lark Rise to Candleford". I am most drawn to the table settings and the simple cakes and rustic meals in those films. Often these times around thetable are filled with cozy scenes of togetherness between family and friends.

Somehow I have always been attracted to moody atmospheres. One of my favorite shots is of this gentleman sitting in a little restaurant in the countryside of Ireland. He was tucked right in enjoying a quiet and simple lunch. I really enjoyed capturing the moment.

Do you have any particular artists or chefs that you believe have informed your creativity?

I do enjoy the Dutch paintins of Johannes Vermeer. 'The Milkmaid' is one of my favorites. I find the light, the textures, colors and mood all very captivating.

I also chanced upon the site of a New Zealand photographer - Kevin Best. I found myself absorbed by his use of soft light illuminating only fragments of a scene to create an ethereal mood.

Your still life/food photography evokes feelings of hearth and home and warmth and love. Can you speak to how you do that?

As my children grow older, I want to create elements during their teen years that they will be able to capture and carry on with their families. I enjoy the ability that I hold as a mother to create memories for them that they can hold close in years to come. Many of my memories from childhood are rather hazy but my memories from the teen years are crisp. I realized that there is this very small window of time to capture these shared family moments before they head off to college. Delicious meals easily lure teenagers to the table and it's in those moments I hope to create a mood of togetherness, family, and comfort. They may not realize it now, but in the future I hope they will understand this is how I display the love I feel for them but often do not always articulate on a daily basis.

I see that you and your family have travelled and lived all over the world. Can you tell us how that has influenced your work?

Travel has definitely influenced my photography. I must have very overactive senses because I am always the one tolinger at a market or stare in wonder at street vendors preparing their dishes. Whenever we travel, I am drawn to the sights, smells and people surrounding food. While making a dish, memories of those special times travelling flood my mind with wonderful memories.

In Japan, families sat on the floor and showed us how to make soba noodles while we sat right beside them and showed them how to make an apple pie. In France, our French student's mother prepped a leg of lamb roast in her adorable little kitchen while I hung on every movement and breathed in the rosemary and olive oil she picked up that afternoon at the market. In Wales, I spent a morning in the tiny stone kitchen of one family while she chopped vegetables from her garden and stirred the pot of a most delicious smelling beef stew. I am dreaming of travelling to Morocco and Istanbul where so many vendors cook their dishes on sidewalks and I can soak up these street scenes with delight.

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