The Rachael Ray Project is a project of two installation artists who’ve been working together since 1999, who happen to be married, with three kids, and who currently live in Portland, Maine, USA.
Hello, we are Lars Jerlach and Helen Stringfellow, and we’ve been working together under the name tectonic industries for over a decade. Lars is from Copenhagen, Denmark, Helen is from Whitley Bay, U.K and we met in Edinburgh, Scotland at art college, where we were both doing our MFA’s. The fast-forward version of life is that we met, started talking about artwork, started going out a lot, started working together, got married, and in 2001 we moved to the States. We were in the Midwest for eleven years, and we had two beautiful daughters. In summer 2012, when Helen was 34 1/2 weeks pregnant, we packed up our entire lives and moved to the opposite side of the world, landing in Auckland, New Zealand. Six weeks later we’d moved out of the hotel, bought a car, adopted a cat and had a baby girl. A year and a half later we started all over again. We missed the US enormously, so we moved back in January 2014, sight-unseen, to beautiful Portland, Maine.
When we’re not moving, or working or making artwork, we’re usually surrounded by a flock of extremely loud children, all of whom appear to be ours.
We have a couple of upcoming art exhibitions around the globe and we’re always plotting world domination. You can see more at tectonic-industries.com.
About this website
In our artwork we have always been intrigued by popular culture, particularly the idea of self-betterment by association. Maybe if we watch enough cookery programs, bookmark enough images of perfect kitchens onto Pinterest, and buy that new thing that everyone says is cool, while we Tweet about it, we will somehow become amazing chefs in astounding kitchens, who are just incredibly cool. And we’ll be able to Tweet about how cool we are. In our heads we have so many grand plans and ambitions, but maybe we should start actually doing something about them tomorrow, when we’re not quite so tired, just after we finish this bowl of cereal while looking at some more design blogs…
This gap between intention and reality is fascinating to us. One day as we watched yet another cookery show while we ate mediocre food, we asked ourselves what it would be like to actually try and cook along in real time to a show which encourages you to cook a tasty and nutritious meal in the time it takes to watch the program. So we decided to do just that. Well, actually, we decided to get other people to do just that. We would be the enablers, they would be the action-takers. We filmed real people cooking along to episodes of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals in real time, in their own kitchens. The resulting video footage is extremely compelling, against all odds really. We’re so used to seeing cooking sanitised and stylised for television that it’s quite jarring to see normal people cook, making messes, struggling to open tins, burning their food, shooing the cat off the counter…
We exhibited the videos initially at the beautiful Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minnesota, as an eight-part video installation. Four monitors ran down either side of the gallery corridor space, each playing one person cooking on a loop. Viewers could stand in front of a monitor and focus on one cooking endeavour, or they could walk down the center of the room and listen to the cacophony of banging spoons, plates being put down, water boiling etc, all being punctuated by Rachael Ray’s instructions. As each person was cooking a different meal at a different speed, there was no sense of competition, only solidarity as each cooked solo yet on display.
We were invited to extend the project to exhibit it as a Special Project at artDC, the inaugural art fair at Washington DC’s Convention Center. We filmed more people and exhibited on sixteen monitors, with eight screens being placed on either side of the entrance to the fair. You can see the videos on our website, tectonic-industries.com.
One day we plan to do this again, it was such an amazing project to be part of. We made new friends and ate some great food. Seriously, what could be better?
While all this was going on, on the last day of 2006 we decided that instead of cooking the same meal every single night because we were too tired to think of anything new, we should start cooking from recipes. Oh, and maybe we should do it every single night for a year. And blog about it, because, well why not? And so, that is how we came to start One Year Project, the blog where we documented cooking our way from start to finish through Rachael Ray’s book, 365: No Repeats, A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners.
It was a bizarre year of having baby number two, moving house, renovating the house, having no kitchen and cooking outside. Every single night we cooked a Rachael Ray dish and blogged the experience. It was hard, hard work sometimes to keep going when all we felt like doing was ordering pizza delivery and curling up on the sofa to snooze, but overall it was a good year.
We decided to bring that year of cooking and blogging full circle into something more art based. We created a system where every ingredient used in the book was assigned a representative colour. We then translated each recipe into a stripe image, with each colour representing an ingredient and each stripe width representing the proportion of the ingredient used relative to all the other components in the recipe. For the longest time we planned to have these stripes printed professionally onto something something sleek and shiny like sheets of aluminium. But neither of us loved the result of the test pieces so we sort of stalled for a while. One of our key rules for making art together (and living our life together) is that if we are not both convinced that something is a good idea, then it doesn’t happen. So the stripe images waited in the wings for a while.
One day it just clicked and made perfect sense. We should paint the stripe images. Painting and cooking are similar processes in many ways so this was the perfect resolution. Let’s make paintings and sell them. We’ve been making art together since 1999, and we’ve exhibited widely but we have never attempted to make our artwork a commercial venture. A few grants and stipends here and there, with occasional artist fees for good luck have meant that most of the time, making art does not make any sense at all on paper. And yet, we make art because it is what we do, we are good at it and it is an integral part of our life. But our three little girls keep on eating and growing and needing things and making art now needs to be a viable part of both our family and creative life. Hence, we keep putting projects out into the world, and this is one of them. You can see the paintings over on our website, tectonic-industries.com.
Please stay a while and have a look around.
Thank you for being here and congratulations on having made it this far down the page!
Helen + Lars