Artistic Tastes


For Laurel Greenfield, food is a muse. “That was the subject I always found myself drawn to because it’s what made me the happiest,” says the local artist, who fills canvases with favorite comfort foods—frosted donuts, sprinkle-dipped ice cream cones—and commissioned work that captures clients’ food memories. She has plenty of her own. “I come from a big Jewish family, so food was used to celebrate holidays, birthdays,” Greenfield recalls. “Family vacations revolved around food. We’d take huge detours to go find special foods to have together.”

She’s continued to seek out new food experiences, learning about Middle Eastern flavors as an intern in the pastry kitchen at Sofra and earning a master’s degree in gastronomy at Boston University. “As I learned more about food and identity and how much food means to different people, that’s when I started doing more commission painting, where people ask me to paint the foods that are special to them.” One client commemorated a favorite family recipe, commissioning a huge painting of a roast chicken in a clay pot that now hangs above the kitchen table. Another project had her painting the Passover table of a half-Jewish family that celebrates their faith through food. “I needed so many photos to really capture what it was like being at their table,” Greenfield says. “I know what my own Passover table looks like, but what does it feel like to be there? What are they eating, what are they doing, what’s special about the plates that they use?”

It’s one of her own food memories that inspired her new series of artichoke paintings, which will be unveiled at a pop-up shop at West Elm’s Fenway store on June 18. “Artichokes are special to me because they remind me of my mom and my sister. They would always steam an artichoke and make a little garlic aioli to dip it in,” Greenfield explains. She had created a single artichoke painting a couple of years ago, and people have asked about it more than any other piece in her portfolio. “When I paint something I love or that means something to me,” she says, “that love comes out in the painting.”  

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