Leah Rosenberg, COLOR BAR, Artist in Residence at Little Paper Planes

by Admin on 06/16/2014

San Francisco Art Enthusiast walks into Little Paper Planes’ store at 855 Valencia Street in the popular Mission neighborhood to meet with owner Kelly Lynn Jones and participate in COLOR BAR, current Artist resident, San Francisco-based Leah Rosenberg‘s experimental seven course artistic experience. While we wait for the 6 o’clock appointment made a few days in advance, Jones briefly relates the history of Little Paper Planes and the genesis of the Artist in Residence program: “I had initially started the online shop in 2004 as a platform for my fellow artists’ ephemera. At the time there wasn’t really any online shops so my intention was to fill that void,” she begins. “I still find it an important tool, but I needed to be able to meet with people in real space and live with all the objects.”

Around the boutique customers speaking in several different languages examine the carefully curated large table in the middle of the space filled with a wide variety of objects from jewelry to key chains, and while moving curiously throughout the shop also peruse unique clothing items, art prints, and pottery — some made by the owner herself. “For me, the shop has always been collaboration with artists and designers. I feel so lucky to be around such amazing talent.” says Jones. “I wanted to extend my gratitude by giving space in the shop dedicated to artists to use however they feel necessary to their practice.”


Little Paper Planes Artist in Residence

While we overhear conversation and laughter between Rosenberg and her current visitors in their last few courses, Jones further explains the role artists and artisans play in the mission of the shop, which leads to a discussion of the residency’s structure. For the first year, the residency has been only by invitation, but there are plans for next year to have an application process and create a jury composed of members of the community. “Since the residency is within the shop it cannot function like a traditional residency, “Jones says.”The artists must consider the space and the social/public nature of it. I do ask the residents to have part their residency communicates to the public in some capacity. I let them interpret what that means and looks like.”

That’s when Leah Rosenberg welcomes us over to COLOR BAR: a 20-minute artistic experience comprised of seven highly visual courses of small bites that engage with color, texture, flavor, and arrangement. After first enjoying a sip of a fizzy soda with a beet, carrot, and rose ice cube through a colorful straw bobbing among the carbonation, we ask Rosenberg how this residency came about. “…I just returned from a 3-month residency at Montalvo, so the Little Paper Planes residency was a wonderful opportunity to keep some momentum and use the space to test some ideas out”, she says. “I enjoy showing in alternative spaces and taking into consideration what happens in the space and using that as inspiration for the work. It’s sort of about site-specificity, I guess.”


Leah Rosenberg, Artist in Residence COLOR BAR at Little Paper Planes

COLOR BAR seems to be concurrently product and process of Rosenberg’s month-long residency project, explored in three unique installments once a week for 3 hours on Tuesdays — the final one coming up June 17th. “Each week I make and collect a stock of items that I use to make these layered color assemblages. It’s a hard thing to describe in words, as it is very much about the experience of being in a space… tasting the flavors, seeing the color, being served these surprises,” Rosenberg says. “These coursed color assemblages are made up of things that I have made like marshmallows and powders, fruit papers and jellies, crackers and sugar glass, with some unexpected processed/store-bought items that I select mostly for their color: cheese puff, a cheese single, edible glitter, seaweed paper, and more!”

Although COLOR BAR includes a wide assortment of ingredients and a delectable arrangement of artful, edible bites, one we don’t see is Rosenberg’s iconic striped, rainbow-colored cakes. “It’s always nice to be known for something!” she smiles, and then explains their absence further: “In attempts to grow as an artist, I have to explore new ways to expand on an idea. I’m always asking myself if there might be another way of saying something… about what it is to make something for someone, the significance of generosity in an artwork, or the significance of having a practice of making edible things (where there is always an end, as it gets eaten or rots) and paintings (where there is not an end, as it hangs on the wall, up for constant judgment). Without a doubt, stripes will always be part of my vocabulary and cake will always be part of my repertoire, but I think it is beneficial to think less about expectation and more about delight. I think it’s important to develop a style that is recognizable as your/my own, a signature if you will (like Andre Cadere with his Wooden Sticks), but rather than being tied to that as your identity, using it to move between materials and methods. The fact that I am associated to striped cakes, hopefully can be viewed as a chapter to the larger narrative and that the fine art and culinary art sensibilities can continue to commingle in my work.”


Leah Rosenberg, Artist in Residence COLOR BAR at Little Paper Planes

Rosenberg is not just an artistic savvy cook and baker, she’s a prolific painter and sculptor who exhibits nationally, including a solo show in Dallas, Texas after recently taking part in the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Program at Saratoga’s distinguished Montalvo Arts Center. While many may see a deep schism between her two creative expressions, Rosenberg says the concepts and ideals came together at Montalvo: “For some time, I have been trying to distinguish between the two: painting, sculpture and food or cakes, but while on residence at Montalvo there were several opportunities to make desserts for dinners, and I discovered that everything was more enjoyable and engaging when I treated each with equal import and claimed them both as art. I think such a unique experience can be created when there is a balance between repeating an action, whether it is creating a stripe painting or assembling a striped cake, to achieve perfection, while also be open to failure and experimentation.”

During our experience we are joined by a few creative locals, including artist Collin McKelvey. The possibility or perhaps the expectation of sharing the project with others as well as the artist’s own direction of the experience, as Rosenberg creates each edible artwork right in front of our eyes, heavily suggests the importance of community to this project. As Kelly Lynn Jones pointed out earlier, the LPP residency is meant to be outward-facing, working with the customers and community that the store is of a part. When asked about this, Rosenberg responds thoughtfully as she takes our placemats made of thick letterpress paper at San Francisco’s The Aesthetic Union that contain traces of our seven course experience, signs and dates them like an edition: “I don’t tend to refer to social practice as much as when I was in grad school. Now it’s so much more about being flexible. I love the idea of creating a place to offer people color and flavor in a unique way,” she says. “I found with ‘social practice’ that as much as there is an intention to engage an audience, there is also an expectation set upon the audience to participate in a particular way. This time at LPP residency is more about testing out an idea with the hope that the end result will offer an audience the opportunity to be served a unique experience.”

Leah Rosenberg’s final COLOR BAR session is Tuesday, June 17 at Little Paper Planes Shop, 855 Valencia Street. You can reserve a time to participate and get more information by emailing Kelly Lynn Jones at info@littlepaperplanes.


Course Six of COLOR BAR at Little Paper Planes