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Finding The Sweet In Bittersweet

The Art of Christa Maiwald

In the case of the beguiling images created by Christa Maiwald, they literally look good enough to eat. Maiwald who is not only an accomplished artist but master baker places her delicious confections of cakes or cookies in unlikely places to create whimsical portraits. Her photo series “Landscape Cakes” features elaborately created cakes in different settings for effect. Maiwald recounts, “I found a tree on Cedar Street which blooms in the spring and got down really low because the petals were all over the ground. I made a vase cake to put amongst them. It was so pretty in the way the items blended.” In another case it was cakes which made up the double yellow line on a road leading to the beach, not pristine sand but rutted in tire tracks. “It was a cautionary tale,” explains Maiwald. Yet it was not man’s encroachment on nature but man’s best friend which ultimately caused the problem. “A dog got out and immediately went for the cakes,” she adds with a laugh, “I had to go back to the kitchen to make more cupcakes and try the shoot again.”

This was no problem for the “baker for a billionaire.” When Maiwald brought a cake to a dinner party, a guest who was a private chef admired her skill and hired her to create all the desserts for a high-profile East Hampton family. “I have baked all my life starting with the Betty Crocker box then later went to culinary school in New York City” she says, and when she combined her baking with her photography, it created a whole new medium. Another project of cookies with images of famous people required a week of cooking hundreds of cookies to get a three-minute shot of them in a bathtub for “Gently Down the Stream” in her “Cookies Crumble” series. 

Her latest work is photographing portraits of icons amongst edible confections from Lady Gaga to Julian Schnabel. “It’s hero worship,” she explains, “When I was getting my graduate degree at the Art Institute of Chicago I had so much admiration for what artists do. A friend said I was like a religious zealot. I even made ceramic cups with artists images and found their mailing addresses to send them.”

Floating Cookies — Drake

But while there are sweets for the sweet there are also sweets for the not so sweet. Utilizing another of her amazing talents, embroidery, she created a series of dictators on lampshades or bad employers who were embroidered on small aprons. There is the evil juxtaposed with the childlike. “I definitely work with the loss of innocence,” Maiwald says, her newest embroideries featuring babies rebuilding in their war-torn worlds. “I always keep two different things going, photography because it’s instant satisfaction and embroidery where a project takes months to complete.” Luckily her two cats seem to have an innate respect not to touch her yarn or edible creations.

Reinvention is a theme for Maiwald who after a successful career in Manhattan as a video artist with exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennial went west to Los Angeles for the film industry then landed back in Springs in East Hampton to raise her family. She enjoys being part of a vibrant artists community locally and also has her work collected both nationally and internationally. Another of her many talents, children’s books will be on display at the Southampton Arts Center “Look At The Book” exhibition starting in February.

Christa Waiwald

Ultimately doing what you love is the best approach to a bittersweet world. “For me art is like Valentine’s Day every day because I just love the material I work with and the satisfaction of getting an image. It’s a wonderful thing you are allowed to do.”