** Leah Gore
** “Art always has been my first love.”
Join us in Celebrating the 2023 Creative Entrepreneur Fellows
Exhibit Opening Saturday 8/26 6:00pm at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV
on display 8/26 – 9/31 | Details (https://tamarackfoundation.org/2023-cef-exhibit/)
Multidisciplinary artist Leah Gore has made a name for herself in the culinary arts but has been engaged with art of all forms from a young age.
“My father is an artist,” says Gore. “He would draw pen and ink and do watercolor based paintings. He was my first real teacher of the arts, buying me art books, teaching me to think outside of the box, and utilizing different materials.”
It was his watercolors and still life[DEL: ’ :DEL] s that first inspired Gore and led her down what would become a versatile artistic path.
Gore comes from a family of amazing cooks and bakers who influenced her to pursue the same interests. Her maternal grandfather, Jack, started a family bakery in Bluefield, West Virginia after returning from WWII. While his bakery tragically burnt down before Gore was born, she shares his love for baking.
“Every chance I get I ask questions and document his old recipes[DEL: , :DEL] from stories from family members,” she says. “This has been the inspiration of what I do now to pay homage to him.”
Gore studied culinary arts at Mountwest Community and Technical College in Huntington, West Virginia and at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. She received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Marshall University.
“My time as a culinary student at Mountwest was a great introduction to cooking. I had fantastic teachers and still consider them mentors,” says Gore. “It solidified my interest in cooking and gave me the confidence to delve deeper.”
The supportive community and strong start she received at Mountwest opened opportunities that allowed her to pursue jobs far from her home and comfort zone. The Culinary Institute provided an intense and prestigious education.
“The Culinary Institute was my first time being away from home for college,” she says. “ I took advantage and traveled into the city every chance I could to eat and learn from as many people as I could.”
At Marshall, she began to see ways ingredients and art mediums intertwine, marking the beginnings of her truly artistic culinary style.
“I consider myself a multimedia artist, and I am comforted in not being boxed into any one medium,” Gore says. “My education at Marshall taught me to implement my locality, my resources and context of Appalachia as a daughter in a blue-collar region often exploited. There is a story to be told in that, in both art and food.”
Gore externed at the Greenhouse Restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa and learned about the vibrant spices and beautiful cuisines of South African culture.
“I was focused on fine dining. We worked with southern hemisphere natural wines, wild game, vibrant fruits and vegetables, molecular gastronomy techniques, braai, stunning Cape seafoods and Cape Malay spices.”
Gore interned at Michelin-starred restaurant Noma in Denmark. There, she developed her own recipes in their test kitchen while working as a forager, focusing on the indigenous flora and becoming familiar with the vast offerings of game and seafood of the coastal Scandinavian region.
She gained practical skills abroad, like different cultural techniques of fermentation and the importance of terroir, the characteristic taste and flavor given to an ingredient by the environment in which it is produced. These experiences taught her how cultures engage with food differently and helped mold her perspective as a chef and artist.
“Food is a universal necessity,” says Gore, “There’s an art in the nuances of each cultural exchange when cooking is involved, whether in ingredient, technique or the simple tradition and gathering of eating.”
Ultimately, Gore wants to tell a story with her art. She is interested in sculpture, painting, printmaking, textiles, and ceramics and incorporates some of these disciplines into her food. She describes her process as a chance to have fun and let intuition be her guide.
“Often times, I come ready with ideas I want to play with, for example drawing on edible rice paper to make a playful confetti element,” Gore shares. “A lot of inspiration also stems from my current music rotation, certain art movements such as abstract expressionism post WWII, and naturally occurring patterns and architecture found in everyday finds, like the bark of a birch tree. This combination of inspirations paired with traditional technique allows me to build layered tactile ephemeral fare swiftly and intentionally.”
Her work is textured, lively and nostalgic. Ranging from lovely and delicate to layered and bold, these delicious works of art speak to Gore’s wide range of interests and skills. She blurs the lines between art and baking.
“There are several themes throughout my artwork which reveal emotive qualities, express political discourse, memory, regional context, and stereotype,” says Gore, “I use bold linework and layers of traditional technique taken from the masters.”
An artist who appreciates process as much as product, Gore leaves behind traces of her handiwork.
“I’m a firm believer in finding beauty in imperfection and try to leave evidence of the path I took to get to the final product. The results leave the option open for interpretation of viewer, enjoyer, and eater. I love to be that catalyst for curiosity.”
Gore’s edible art may test the bounds between food and sculpture but her favorite thing to bake is surprisingly simple, or so it seems.
“My favorite thing to make is both the most basic and complicated: bread. I enjoy making it because I love eating it,” says Gore.
For Gore, art shapes culture by documenting history and providing a platform for creativity and self-expression. “Art gives a voice to the oppressed,” she says.
In the future, Gore is looking to increase her community engagement and explore new artistic avenues. Her desire is to remain a lifetime student of the arts, learning as she works.
“I would like to continue being involved in the community and do more food outreach with my skills. I am passionate about food access and equity and have an interest in having a role in food advocacy in the specific area I’m from in Appalachia,” she shares. “I would like to have stronger crossovers of food and art in gallery settings. I’m interested in more travel and artist and food residencies.”
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