Kristin Worrall Crafts Sculptural Art from Gelatin Desserts in “Take Comfort”

A new exhibit in Connecticut's Standard Space blends food, art, performance and nostalgia

For New York-based artist Kristin Worrall, it was not enough to tour with the award-winning company Nature Theater of Oklahoma, nor was it enough to bake for critically acclaimed restaurants such as Jean-Georges. Rather, Worrall’s penchant for the multidisciplinary and interconnectedness led the artist to forge her own path, melding food, sound design and theater into interactive, unique art. Her latest—Take Comfort at Connecticut’s Standard Space, founded by fine art photographer Theo Coulombe—explores the beauty and creativity of gelatin desserts. Accompanied by a performance and atmospheric soundscape, the exhibit (on view today through 18 December) playfully investigates pleasure and nostalgia.

“I have a pretty wacky background,” Worrall tells us. “I came to pastry cheffing later in life. I went to pastry school while I was in a theater company. I had spent 10 years with them, touring around the world but I could see that there was an end to that life. It just didn’t feel grounded to me, so I went to pastry school because I had always loved baking and cooking.”

As it turns out, there are many similarities between theater and food. “When I was involved in theater, we were very aware of the audience. I feel like that’s always at the forefront for me: providing an experience for somebody, and I feel that same thing with food. I’ve worked in kitchens, at restaurants and bakeries and it’s a little frustrating when you’re not able to interact with whoever’s eating it,” she says.

In merging the two, Worrall typically performs by cooking her recipes in real time before serving them to an audience. Between the domestic performance and sweet confections, things can get erotic. “The work that I do is very classically woman, domestic labor,” explains the artist. “I like playing with that idea. In my shows, I often have a lot of sexual innuendos. I think there’s sort of this expectation for me to do that; I like to exploit that idea.”

For Take Comfort, Worrall diverges from her typical show and instead performs a live silent auction of the desserts in place of making them for the audience (the process of which would be anti-climatically waiting for it to set). The three-hour-long performance (held only on 3 December) stems from the live cake auctions at Sharon Historical Society and sees the artist explaining the main pieces throughout the night while a vibrant, almost psychedelic video of them, made by David Pym, is projected against the gallery’s wall.

“My first dessert that I ever remember making was a jello parfait,” says Worrall. “It’s very popular amongst a certain community of South Asian women who make gelatin flowers. I saw a bunch of YouTube videos about them and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to try it out!’ The actual form itself is really wild looking in person and I happen to think it tastes great too.”

Striking and whimsical, each artwork features different flavors and personalities. All of them have a clear layer that reveals two or three layers of cream or mousse within. Some cater to a more traditional palate of chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut and natural fruit purees. Others feature more off-beat flavors like licorice, black sesame, orange blossom and rose water. Of the taste, Worrall notes, “I’m trying to get lots of complementary and contrasting flavors in there, but I like to keep it pretty simple. I don’t want to bombard people with 14 flavors. I think about it in terms of what grows together, goes together.”

Before she even began working on the show, Worrall had the exhibit’s title picked out. “I had a really bad pandemic time. It just forced me to evaluate what was important in life,” she says. Take Comfort “is trying to get back to that very simple idea of comfort and stability.” The retro desserts’ inviting forms revel in the pleasure of nostalgia.

Manipulating the sound and atmosphere in the gallery, alongside the visual display of the desserts, allows Worrall to craft a specific, playful experience. “It’s like carving sculpturally time and space with sound and music. I can really emotionally impact people, lead people through things, subliminally or consciously,” she says. By applying performance and sound to the sculptural works, Worrall lends artistic value to food, tying their sensorial and visual gratification to the necessity and ephemerality of comfort.

Hero image courtesy of the artist/seymour templar; all others by David Pym