Be the Artist: Jackson Pollock

pollock cookies
These Pollock-tribute cookies are one of the best ways to combine art and cooking projects. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

The Artist: Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was a an American abstract expressionist artist best known for his drip painting, a form of abstract art created by paint dripped or poured onto a canvas or other surface.

pollockbooks
Even books about Pollock feature his drip painting method on their covers. Images: (l to r), Cooper Square Press, Harry N. Abrams, and Taschen Publishing.

Pollock was born in 1912 in Wyoming. He always possessed an independent and aggressive nature, and was expelled from two high schools as a teenager. He later moved to New York to study at Art Students League, and later found work during the Great Depression for the WPA Federal Art Project. Soon after, he received a commission to create a mural on the townhouse of renowned art collector Peggy Guggenheim, and people begin taking notice of his talent.

It was in 1936, when he first discovered the use of liquid paint for drip painting method. He not only preferred this style, he used whatever he could to create his images, from resin-based paints to household paints. He became so well known for this style, a 1956 Time Magazine article dubbed him “Jack the Dripper.”

Although some critics regarded his style as nothing more than random, “meaningless images,” he went on to become one of the Twentieth Century’s most respected artists.

One thing about his style, is it very satisfying and energetic to try out, and there are even online sites that allow people to try out his method. The site jacksonpollock.org (not to be mistaken with the actual biography site), will take art lovers right to a page where they can create their own drip painting.

my pollock
An image made on the jacksonpollock.org site, created by Lisa Kay Tate.

Pollock died in a car accident in 1956 at age 44, and was given a memorial retrospective exhibit of his work at New York City’s Museum of Modern art a few months later.

Pollock didn’t always care what these critics thought, as he knew what he wanted to say and how to say it. That was what mattered.

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you,” he said in a 1950 interview in New Yorker. “There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment. Only he didn’t know it.”

kermit cookie
Pollock liked to use unconventional means for his drip painting style. Why not decorative icing, like on this Kermit the Frog-inspired Pollock style cookie? Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

 The Project: Pollock Cookies!

Pollock used a number of less conventional tools in his works, such as sticks and basting syringes, so this project will utilize a medium that is both unconventional and tasty… decorative icing!

Since this is an art project more than an actual cooking project, use commercial pre-made, plain sugar cookie dough, like the type that is almost too tempting not to eat raw.

Use regular commercial cake decorating icing or gel icing, or use a basic powdered sugar glaze recipe found in pretty much every baking cookbook there is. Different colored glazes can be made with just one drop of food coloring in each batch, and a small medicine dropper, syringe, or teaspoon can be used to create the drip pattern.

elmocookiemonster
Cookie Monster and Elmo cookies! Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Like the Be the Artist project for Josef Albers, this project is primarily about identifying at theme through color. Find a favorite group of characters… Justice League, the characters of Inside Out or cast of Orphan Black, X-Men, the band Gwar…whatever you want to represent, and convey it, via drizzling color schemes on plain, cooked, sugar cookies in icing.

For example, the family really enjoyed Cookie Monster’s “Shower Thoughts” at with musings from New York City museums (including cookie-related comments like “cookie dough is sushi for desserts!”). We thought a nice cookie homage to him and other Monster muppets would be in order.

Use two, three, or four colors that represent that character. Drizzle them on the already baked and cooled cookies in icing, but not just all over the place. Think about how much of each color this character would best be represented by, as well as the placement. Let them dry and arrange them, not stacked, onto a serving dish.

Once finished, you can serve this little tasty gallery as part of an art-themed party, or just as a way to make dessert or snack time a little more colorful. To make it more interactive, have everyone guess which theme or characters the cookies represent, before eating them.

These may not be works in traditional paint on canvas, but the according to the book, Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics by Clifford Ross, Pollock expressed what he felt the important source of modern art is…and it wasn’t merely in the medium, or even in the subject:

“Most modern painters work from a different source, they work from within,” he said.

Fozzy & Kermit
Fozzy Bear and Kermit cookies, by the Tate Girl bakers. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

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Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site ihogeek.com and maintains her own blogsite at lisathegeekmom.wordpress.com. She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.