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Kitchen masterpieces
Story and photos by Catherine Berlin

old home
Artist Lori Desormeaux’s backsplash as installed in Laura Chestnut’s kitchen.

Sink, window, stove, chopping board, and cupboards: that’s how I think of my kitchen. I never think about the walls. Artwork gets magnetized to the fridge and everything else personal gets shoved into two big junk drawers because finding the garbage can sometimes seem too final. The Backsplash as Art exhibit on display in Elmwood Avenue retailers’ windows September 7-19 shows all of us with purely utilitarian kitchens that we have all been missing out, bigtime.

Not that backsplashes are new. There has always been an abundance of hand-painted ceramic tile roosters and Tuscan hillsides one could glue to the wall beneath the cupboard and above the work counter in one’s kitchen. But the pieces done by the Backsplash as Art group are actually worth buying. In fact, they are inspiring.

old home
Backsplashes by (t-b) Robert Schulman,
Beth Munroe, Louis Haremski,
Komal Prasad, and Diane Baker.
Robert Schulman, for example, combines strong contrast with muted tones to give us a building-scape collage that is fitted yet fluid, and familiar without looking worn. Beth Munro shows us in her gentle and inviting work of fruit and basic place settings that with her perspective it is possible to combine fresh with refined and come up with yet a third state of lightness. Diane Baker takes us around the corner and back in time with a rustic pole-stacking creation, the simplicity of which would allow it to work in even the most modern decors. Fine furniture maker Louis Haremski uses his woods (fiddleback sycamore, padauk, and wenge) and inspiration from an old BPO mug featuring a waving musical staff to bring movement to an otherwise staid place. Komal Prasad has painted a vibrant landscape of marbled mountains and distant juniper trees, but it is in the Colorform birds, pebbles, tree branches, and patches of green that her style of magical realism truly shines. Or maybe your backsplash area craves the work of Christine Adrian-Paradee, who created patterns we find reminiscent of the secret geometry inside tropical fruit.

Two artists will have their backsplashes installed at the time of the Tour of Kitchens, including Lori Desormeaux, whose glass mosaic can be seen at the home of Backsplash as Art organizer Laura Chestnut. She and her husband Tom had the mosaic installed along one wall of their 37 Oakland Place home kitchen, and the effect is stunning. The piece enlivens and warms an already beautiful, recently remodeled kitchen.

“This is the fourth kitchen I have had to redo,” explains Chestnut, “and as gorgeous as the tile selection is these days, I kept feeling like I had seen it, done it. We are in a great house, full of character, but we are not traditionalists. I started thinking that bringing an art piece into the kitchen as a backsplash would seem like an art choice rather than fighting with the architectural style of the 1890s house, which I did not want to replicate in the kitchen.”

As the organizer, Chestnut put out a call for work to artists listed in the Artists in Buffalo booklet, and the response was immediate and positive. The finished pieces, in ceramic, wood, steel, neon, photography, and mixed media, will be on display at Gilda’s Club as part of a Tour of Kitchens exhibit on September 23. Other artists participating include Catherine Gillespie, Clarence Carnahan, Gretchen Grobe, Edreys Wajed, Doreen DeBoth, Thomas Rooney, Catherine O’Connor, Megan Cosgrove, Jo Ann Brenner, and Phil from Steel Crazy.

Catherine Berlin is a writer, photographer, and lawyer, raising children and a husband in Buffalo. Growing up around the Great Lakes, she has also spent time in California and Arizona, and currently has a second home in Sweden.


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