As a young girl I dreamt of being a chef, a Methodist minister, or Secretary of State. I have happily maintained this eclectic approach to life – building my career slinging fresh seasonal fare, playing with altars and moon dancers, and discussing the future of the food systems, sometimes all in the same day.
By day, I cook healthy comfort food for Bay Area elders and changemakers as my alter ego, The Heirloom Chef. By night and all the spaces in-between I create participatory art projects. I am inspired by the community engagement projects of Bay Area artist Brett Cook as well as the food and entrepreneurial projects of artists Michael Rakowitz and Theaster Gates. What informs my work is a commitment to using the intercultural symbols that inhabit my life to move between many worlds and generate dialogues that span different classes, cultures, and professional fields. I unite my healing path, entrepreneurship, and commitment to social justice to generate community experiences that use a range of media but always invite participation and reflection.
It’s not that I don’t distinguish between life and art. Rather, I distinguish the creative experiences of my everyday life and broadcast them. For example, when I began The Working Gal, I had spent almost two years in and out of work. I began to recognize my complicated relationship to earning as something that was connected to the historical limitations placed on women’s professional careers and ability to make money. The Working Gal was a reflection on my Grandmother Maggie’s experience as a secretary in my hometown’s steel company and how that connected to my own challenges. As part of large public performance, I transformed myself into my grandmother as a 50’s secretary to give career advice to unsuspecting passers by in the San Francisco’s financial district.
My nostalgia for the beauty of the past is a way to acknowledge the contributions, and the limitations, of the ancestors. My aim is to do this through opening up avenues for participants to reflect on the past in relation to the future, and how to have a life and community of their own making.