conversations between food and art

experience kasvio

The art direction for Kasvio is a collaboration between chef Mari Pitkänen and curator Staci Bu Shea. Both Mari and Staci share a deep appreciation of food as a means of telling stories and bringing friends together. The spirit behind their collaboration is drawn from their shared love of saunas, from warm, cosy cabins that create the feeling of being everywhere and nowhere at once, and old but ever present horoscope advice to “reach out to your friends, ask for guidance, fall in love with a mountain again.”

The basis for this modus operandi is in conversation with the artworks installed especially for the restaurant space of Kasvio. Alongside the main value of beginning from interpersonal relationships, the works by different artists (read more about them here) are inspired by four themes we devised alongside the creation of the first menu: (punk) nostalgia, something difficult, queered memory, and celebration. The artists involved are all close to Mari from various times and places in her life and have created site-specific works for the restaurant. Together their works compose a conversation between form, texture and materials – from embroidery, paint and pen to music compilations and rock etchings – akin to ingredients in a dish.

Within Kasvio, you will find artworks made especially for the restaurant. They were installed slowly over the first half of 2021, while the conversation between Mari and I started at the end of 2019. With artist Asia working on the interior design, we created a sensuous environment of artistic collaboration that supports the food served and the heart of Kasvio: the experience of collective dining.

Our conversation extended to artists Loren Britton, Martina Bovini, Sinikka Mieto, and Dayna Casey, all who are connected to Mari from various times and places in her life. Together these works compose a conversation between form, texture and materials – from embroidery, paint and pen to acrylic window paint and rock etchings. Alongside the main method of beginning from interpersonal relationships, the works are inspired by four themes Mari and I devised alongside the creation of the first menu of Kasvio: (punk)nostalgia, something difficult, queer memory, and celebration.

When you enter the restaurant and look up, there’s an installation made from plastic polymer window paint by Loren Britton. Loren takes inspiration from interdependent creatures like zooids, which are bioluminescent underwater creatures that live communally. Looking down the main room, there’s a cross-stitch work by Martina Bovini on fabric from the early 20th century, and the craft of embroidery which was passed down to Martina from the older women in her family. Martina reflects on tradition and experimentation, blood and chosen family, with love and respect for both.

Before entering the second room, you already begin to see framed drawings peaking through the doorway. These four prints are select excerpts of a cut- and -paste zine by Sinikka Mieto. The zine covers practical sustainability skills and is drawn from rural communal food production in Finland, touching on Mari’s roots. Sharing this same room, there’s a large fabric work by Dayna Casey using different fabric prints and stitching methods. Dayna made this work while thinking about time, fertility, and fermentation, with a little help from her mother.
There are also two objects that I’ve brought. First, a roughly cut arctic kyante rock, commonly found in the Nordic region where Mari comes from. On the rock surface is an engraved drawing of the route that leads to my grandparent’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains. In the chapel room, there are drawings made with watercolor inspired by some of the dishes that Mari was imagining for the restaurant at the beginning of our conversations.
Lastly, there’s an evolving music playlist created by Luke Cohlen, which adds to the multi-sensorial atmosphere and changes with the seasons like the menu.
This is one composition in an ever-growing conversation at Kasvio. As the menu evolves with each season, we imagine new conversations to arise from the connections we’ll find between the stories that define each recipe and the surrounding artworks. Stories define our lives, and like memories, they evolve every time they’re remembered and shared.

– Staci BuShea with Mari Pitkänen