Married illustrators to unveil show

Teresa Pagliasi, left, and David Vaughan adding objects to a gelatin mold Friday during a narrative still-life workshop at the Out of the Box Studio. The artist used these creations as inspiration for their drawings.

Teresa Pagliasi, left, and David Vaughan adding objects to a gelatin mold Friday during a narrative still-life workshop at the Out of the Box Studio. The artist used these creations as inspiration for their drawings.

A brazen college student last Thursday visited the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea, where he removed a banana from a $120,000 installation, ate the fruit and reattached the peel. He blamed it on missing breakfast.

“The student told the museum he ate it because he was hungry,” a spokesperson told CNN. Fortunately for curators at the Out of the Box Studio, “Eat at Your Own Risk” won’t have real food on display.

Artwork inspired by gelatin creations will be part of the show from married illustrators John Rego and Sanika Phawde. The gallery, which will feature artwork representing either food or locations, convenes with an opening reception from 5-7:30 p.m. May 6.

“We’re really looking at works that we have that complement each other nicely,” Rego said.

The exhibit also will feature work — inspired by Rego and Phawde — by clients from Out of the Box, which supports artists who have developmental disabilities. The work by the Out of the Box clients were created during a workshop Friday that was based on still life made from gelatin.

“Eat at Your Own Risk” will be the first time Rego and Phawde have an exhibit dedicated to their work. Rego, who grew up in Warren, is an acrylic painter and commercial illustrator. Phawde, a native of India, is a comic artist. The pair met through their graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2019. They were married in September and live in Providence, and both work at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, or MassArt, in Boston.

Phawde usually works with ink and watercolor, while Rego works in acrylics. Despite the different mediums, both of their work incorporates narrative themes based on food and cityscapes.

“Our work has started mirroring each other’s in some way,” Phawde said. “We both really enjoy Jell-O and that’s a motif that appears very strongly in John’s work. But in my work, I try to bring in the texture of Jell-O or the idea of Jell-O as dessert.”

Phawde and Rego were introduced to Out of the Box when they attended the “Funhouse” exhibit in September. They were invited by their friend, Kyle Legerski, who specializes in community inclusion for the studio.

“They fell in love with the gallery,” said Casey Weibust, director of Out of the Box.

Developing a lesson on narrative still lifes and reference images at MassArt, Phawde was looking to include something that was amorphous in texture and came up with gelatin as the basis for the exercise.

“If you cut it out, you can never predict its shape,” Phawde said. “If you’re teaching still life, values or observational tools to students, I really want to force them to look at something. It’s better if it’s something they’re not used to, so they pay attention.”

During the workshop, Out of the Box clients could make two alterations to the Jell-O. They could either take something away, like a piece of gelatin, or add something, like cocktail umbrellas, forks, glitter and Barbie doll limbs, to create something “nobody can really predict.”

“Because it’s made together, it’s really surreal and absurdist,” Phawde said. “I really love seeing all the directions in which people tend to take their work.”

The artists then took reference images of the creations and made their own narrative still-life drawings based on the gelatin molds.

“It’s like a still life that’s telling a story,” Weibust said.

Mary Jo Roberts, for example, imagined the basket underneath the gelatin as a cage with a troll inside. Nya Stuckey, whose work is typically influenced by pop art, drew a big blob of gelatin with the words “Blue Jell-O” on it, which was intended to be contradictory because the Jell-O was actually red.

“I really loved the pieces that were completely abstract,” Phawde said.

While the still-life illustrations will be on display, pictures of the actual molds will be featured on a television screen for visitors to see the inspiration.

Phawde works in comic art, reportage-style visual essays and food illustration. She has also created graphic novels. One of her comics, “Questions My Tarot Cards Refused to Answer” appeared in The New Yorker in 2022. Phawde also will exhibit a sculpture depicting a wedding between a farm goose and a koi fish with flying fish wings. She had started it as a wedding cake topper, but the piece became too heavy to be used as one.

Rego’s art style is inspired by Dutch Renaissance painters like Heironymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and he also draws inspiration from surrealist, pop art and food photography from the 1950s. His work in the “Eat at Your Own Risk” show includes food illustrations, animal portraiture and surrealism.

“I find something that I’m fascinated with aesthetically or conceptually, and I’ll make a few paintings of it,” Rego said.

In a similar vein to Phawde’s Jell-O workshop, some of Rego’s work includes aspic, a type of savory gelatin used for meats.

“There’s something that was fun about painting them in acrylics,” he said. “You can make it translucent and opaque and glossy. It’s a really great medium for capturing gelatin.”

While aspic had been a theme of Rego’s work, many of his pieces will not feature the savory goo, but some will incorporate food as a theme. One painting is “The Heist,” which depicts frogs opening a pineapple and stealing its contents. That piece was based on a still-life assignment he gives his students at MassArt.

“I purchased a pineapple, and I started drawing the pineapple, and I had a lot of difficulty just sitting there and focusing on the pineapple,” he said. “So, I added a bunch of ridiculous elements. I thought it would be funny to have all these frogs stealing the fruit.”

Aside from his paintings, Rego will also display an illustration commissioned by a magazine for a story on a person who inherited the preparation of a family Christmas dinner.

“It doesn’t have to be this perfect representation of something,” Weibust said. “It’s showing that you can really do your own thing and invent.”