We love eating food, looking at food, and talking about food. But food art is still considered a “low subject” by many creatives, artist Kendyll Hillegas explains.
That perception kept Hillegas away from creating food art for a long time, she says. But while she was largely bedridden with an autoimmune disease, she found solace in drawing and painting food.
“I like drawing food because I like eating food,” she says with a laugh. “I’m really interested in some of the community dynamics around food, and how it can be something that really brings people together. It’s something that we all have in common, but that also has a lot of diversity in it, which I think is really beautiful.”
Now Hillegas has built a career out of her art, mostly by creating food pieces for corporate clients. She makes mixed media pieces by layering drawing and painting.
She still likes to find time for side projects, however, and her latest—a show called “FEAST,” on display through Dec. 20 at Gracie’s Ice Cream—marks a unique intersection of local eateries, art, and the season of giving.
Although Hillegas originally planned to showcase the pieces on social media, the project snowballed once she got in touch with Gracie’s Ice Cream owner Aaron Cohen. Cohen helped her identify and contact other local restaurants and food shops, until she had a list of 11 eateries.
“I wanted them to all to be iconic foods,” she says. “I thought, ‘I want to do a piece of pie, I want to do ice cream, I want to do tacos.’ Basically, I was just thinking of quintessential foods that people would immediately recognize.”
She developed one piece of artwork for each of the eateries—ice cream from Gracie’s, tacos from Taco Party, a bagel and lox from Mamaleh’s Delicatessen, a cocktail from Trina’s Starlite Lounge, and so on. Flour Bakery + Cafe, Mei Mei, Rabottini’s Pizza, Barrington Coffee Roasters, Blackbird Donuts, Clover Food Lab, and Whole Heart Provisions are also highlighted in “FEAST.”
All proceeds from the artwork—everything but their framing costs—will be donated to Community Servings, a Boston-based nonprofit that serves medically tailored meals to people with critical illnesses. It’s a cause that’s important to Hillegas.
“I really liked their mission, I think because of being someone who’s dealt with chronic health issues in the past,” she says. “That really touched a nerve for me … the recognition of how food can be either really alienating when you’re going through that, or something that kind of creates a glue and a sense of community.”
“FEAST” will be on display at Gracie’s Ice Cream (22 Union Square) through Dec. 20. To purchase one of the pieces, visit kendyllhillegas.com/shop.