Yes. That's a waffle with Jesus's face cast into it, filled with Maple syrup + the Holy Spirit. Let me explain, there's a deeply profound story here that examines the beginning of my cookwares' career as I first entered the art world.
A student of sculpture at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, I took full advantage of the surprise introduction into foundry work. At the ripe age of 19 yrs old, with a new opportunity to grow my budding creativity into this malleable world of metal, I immediately stumbled onto something that has since marked my life in a very deep way : cast iron.
I was invited to my first iron pour as a Foundations student at MIAD, and soon after, signed up for the first foundry & fabrication classes that allowed me to begin my adventures with the very early interest to somehow merge sculpture & performance together to create a bigger, more physical experience than mere objects sitting on a pedestal.
My first approach was to use the naturally social activity of making food as a means to executing my concepts. I saw that making cook wares was a great opportunity to play with different ways that people break barriers & play into certain roles such as "host", "guest", "chef", "person of honor", etc etc. I also thought of my castings as mere "tools" which I could use to somehow bring these people together and examine different situations or scenarios I'd set up around them. Call it part "social engineering" project, part "adult make believe". I quickly caught on to the exciting fact that when you know how to cast metal, you suddenly have a WILD horizon of possibilities to control when designing new things.
A series of graphic waffle iron portraits designs that I called "The Breakfast of Champions", first evolved out of a phenomenon at that time ( year 2002 ? ), when it was almost common to hear that people were selling weird, if not extremely hoaxy objects like toast, or eggplants, with images of Jesus or Mary that appeared "miraculously" onto them. I truly thought it was not only unbelievable, but unavoidably funny too. In the depths of my young abilities to articulate complex concepts, a big question stirred in me : How do we even know if these people ever existed !
For all we know, they could be simple folk lore, mythology, symbolisms made up to help guide the human heart over centuries of power conflict and human struggle.
I focused my choices for who's face I would cast into these waffle designs, based on one simple criteria: The person has to be "famous" but poor, with the chance that they never even existed. My first honorable mention: Jesus! I incorporated his well-known portrait into waffle iron plates that I manipulated from a mold I took off a pre-existing electric waffle maker. Exchanging the commercially manufactured waffle plate for my version served as just one detail to a bigger performance that happened, with some relation to the portrait's meaning.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to continue to re-create these “happenings” with new groups of people who enter my life. The first photo document of such a staging (above) was centered around the image of “The Last Supper”, which happened out at Franconia Sculpture Park when I was an artist intern there in 2008, nearly 7 years after the “Jesus Waffle Iron” was first conceived & cast during my Sophomore year at MIAD.
The most recent reenactment of “The Last Supper” happened just last year, 2013, at Sector 67 under a very spontaneous, but generously willing gathering of whoever was around that day with a little time time to play a part as one of the 13 people needed to make the "Last Supper" scene happen again. Here is the 2013 crew at Sector 67.
Needless to say, it’s a perpetual work in progress. The gallery of images at the top of this post is a flash back through the history of "The Jesus Waffle Iron", and all the amazing things this piece taught me. From cooking in a fire, to some of my first gallery exhibits. It was the vehicle for me to learn casting & foundry work. It opened up the social reveal of how food stuff + people function together. It prepared me for the endurance needed inside product development for cookware, especially with all the details that the process demands.
To that end, I must say : Thank you Jesus waffle maker, for putting me in my place. I'm pretty happy being around the fire.