Zilly Rosen's artist statement on the Obama/Lincoln cupcake art installation

I wanted to repost the artist statement from Zilly Rosen's Presidential Cupcakes exhibit yesterday at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Please note: This does not represent the views of Cupcakes Take the Cake, but is intended to give context to the Obama/Lincoln cupcake art exhibit. We will have another interview with Zilly here soon about the making of the exhibit, more about the cupcakes' ingredients, the response to her piece and her plans for the official opening of Zillycakes in Buffalo, New York (projected for May 2009) and I will also post my personal take on watching the exhibit (or rather, the end of the exhibit).

By Zilly Rosen: (retyped from handout)

From the artist

I have two rules for my cupcake installations. First, they must be created in celebration of something or someone special. Second, they must be served for people to eat in order to complete them! It's not a party if there's no cake...

At a time when we are bombarded daily by thousands of digital images, my cupcake portraits turn the digital picture on its ear. Using the same technique of composing an image from pixels, my installations take many days--even weeks--to create. I lovingly bake, ice, and cover each cupcake with a homemade fondant circle that has been colored and cut by hand. While digital images are created in a flash and hang around the internet forever, my installations are created slowly and last briefly. The most important ingredient is the participant in the celebration; this is the way the image comes to life and endures: through the memories of its participants.

On the surface, these installations are beautiful images made from an unexpected medium. They are big enough to command attention, but they are also playful enough to appeal to a wide range of viewers. They resist categorization because they are one part art installation, one part performance art, one part homage, and one part dessert. There is a conceptual element to the work. It reminds us that in order to celebrate, we must slow down and be present. It shows us that, given time and organization, many small ordinary things can come together to create something extraordinary, something that can make a big impression.

Today's installation celebrates the Inauguration of President Barack Obama just a few weeks ago and the 200th Anniversary of President Lincoln's birth just a few days ago. These two men have been compared of late for more than just their early careers as lawyers from Illinois.

I created this dual portrait with the belief that the vision of a single person, gifted with the ability to lead, can change our world for the better. Rarely do individuals come about who have an absolute belief in the need for a fair and just government, and the skills to speak and motivate others to act on that belief. Obama and Lincoln are both cut from that cloth. My pride in them and in our country for electing them is immense. My gratitude for the changes they represent is deep. And my awe at the size of teh tasks they face(d) is immeasurable.

This entire piece is created from more than 5,600 yello cupcakes, for the sake of consistency of size. I considered making Obama from chocolate cake, but that bakes up bigger, which would have caused problems with the proportions. Instead, I have iced Obama with chocolate and Lincoln with vanilla, in a tribute to their heritages. On the surface, however, both of their images used every shade of fondant, but in different proportions. I like what that says about our similarities and differences as human beings.

Cake has a special emotional connotation that allows it to grow rather than fade in the memory of the recipient. The celebration at which it is served gives it a human context that deepens the experience and the memory. President Obama's Inauguration and the 200th Anniversary of President Lincoln's birth are both events worthy of a big celebration, from my point of view.

I thank you for joining me today in this celebration, and for becoming part of my art work. I hope you enjoyed the image and sampled a cupcake or two! I'd love to hear back from you about your experience here today. Email me at zilly@zillycakes.com

Thank you.

Zilly Rosen, February 14, 2009