Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Not a cookbook

The above photograph is posted because older cookbooks figure so extensively into our research here at Unique Culinary Adventures. But if you think it's a cookbook, guess again. The entire thing is a single sculpture carved from a one piece of wood.

Having never entered a crafts show, Randy Rosenthall started big, namely by exhibiting at the Smithsonian Craft Show held in Washington, DC, April 20-23. With the above sculpture and lots more of the same genre, he won the "Best of Show" award.

The exhibit didn't appear like anything you'd expect to see at any craft show, much less the Smithsonian Craft Show. It looked like a messy table piled up with frayed old newspapers, magazines, pads of written on paper, and maps. People were being teased to the point that they just might grab and pick up one of those "old papers," oblivious to the risk inherent in mis-handling fine art. However, the only person I observed who did that---and a piece did break off---was Randy himself, while packing up. The above pictured "cookbook" is actually one of the less spectacular pieces. For more, go here: www.randallrosenthal.com/

Rosenthall does all the writing, drawing, and painting that go with these sculptures. At its extreme, this means reproducing with pen and ink an entire page of editorial from The New York Times. In fact, on one frayed looking such page that's part of one of these sculptures, he went to the point of filling in the Times crossword puzzle.

Randy began his art career as a painter and took advantage of a first opportunity to exhibit his paintings in New York back in the 70's at a Soho Gallery . As luck would have it, both Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali showed up and raved about those paintings. I've seen reproductions and raved about them myself. They reminded me of Dali's work.

Randy earned enough from them to not have to worry for a while. So he took off for southern California to spend the better part of a decade of surfing and tending bar. After a reunion with Caren, the childhood friend who would become his wife, the couple headed to Long Island and purchased a tool shed near Easthampton, which they converted into their house. The carpentry work involved inspired Randy to take an interest in woodworking as art, and soon he was into a new medium.

I got to know Randy through Caren, who's been close friends with Mrs. Yi for many years. Recently I asked him what went through his mind as he created these amazing pieces. "I don't really think about anything," he said. "It's kind of like athletics, like tennis or surfing, where you're just doing it."