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At Chocolate Soiree, Artists Find Inspiration in Truffles

By Casey Cora | January 29, 2013 5:16pm

BRIDGEPORT — Ceramic artists from across the city have accepted a unique challenge — to collaborate with a piece of chocolate.

An extension of the original “Conversations in Clay” series — which brought together tattoo artists, fashion designers, filmmakers, printers and painters and paired them with ceramic artists — the Chocolate Soiree is the brainchild of web designer Gina Hutchings of Lunar Media.

Two “soirees” are planned, the first on Feb. 2 and another on Feb. 9. Both will take place beginning at 7 p.m. at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St., and will feature scotch tastings by Auchentoshan, wine, hors d’oeuvres and, of course, chocolate.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased on the event’s website. Hutchings said tickets for the Feb. 2 event have sold out and the Feb. 9 tickets are going quick.

Participating artists include Dustin Yager, Jay Strommen, Jayson Lawfer,  Joanna Kramer, Mie Kongo, Patty Kochaver, Sarah Hicks, Sangeet Gupta and Mary Drabik.

Hutchings originally created the series as a way for artists to expand their horizons, to get them out of their comfort zone and chatting with gallery patrons in a salon-style format.

“You could see what happened when you collaborate with another artist, how different everything looked. It really opened up their eyes to possibilities,” she said.

But this time the premise is a bit different. The artists will use truffles created by Near West Side-based Cake Sweet Food Chicago as a muse.

“The challenge for them to collaborate with a piece of chocolate, which is an inanimate object, to see the different emotion it invokes,” she said.

Artist Sarah Hicks said it’s a challenge she readily accepted.

Hicks, 35, of Lincoln Square, will be using Cake’s “Morning After Merlot” truffle — that’s Merlot ganache surrounded by bittersweet chocolate and rolled in red velvet cake crumbs — as inspiration.

“You realize the layering of different food materials, the creamy center, with the hard shell, the red velvet dusting, that to me was similar to my perspective as an artist, to take different forms and collage them together,” she said.

Mary Winslow, owner of Cake Sweet Foods Chicago, said it’s the first time her business has been involved in this type of collaboration. She thinks the pairing of the Gordito Picante truffle with  Joanna Kramer's work could yield interesting results.

"[Kramer] describers her work reflecting quietness and simplicity with a small surprises. This is how I would describe the gordito picante truffle which starts out as smooth flavorful bite and finish with with a surprising yet pleasing heat," Winslow said.

Still, she’s not really sure what to expect, “which is what makes this all so enticing.”