Pâtisserie

“Unsatisfied desire is in itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” — C. S. Lewis

Installation view of 40 French Desserts

No food is as powerful as dessert or gets as tied up in our issues of guilt, longing, abstinence, and attraction. We celebrate birthdays with it. Grandparents spoil children with it. It’s the first to get cut from a diet and the first some flock to for comfort. And yet for me, it represents the unattainable. I react to food with high histamine, salicylate, and copper content, and it results in very severe dietary restriction.

This body of work started as a therapeutic exercise in deconstruction and a re-training of the mind to look at dessert as form rather than food. It soon became a technical riddle, and I became a food taxidermist of french pastries. To glass, I combined my love of porcelain, realizing where one material floundered, the other excelled. This body of work utilizes nearly every possible technique in both mediums; glassblowing, hot-sculpting, lampwork, fusing, casting, and grinding in glass and well as the ceramic techniques of hand-building, throwing, and using a good old fashioned pastry tube.

The following desserts are all handmade from glass or ceramic, which includes the plates, cups, glass jars, cherry stems, sprinkles… everything. There are only 4 objects that are not handmade: the crème brûlée spoon, the wood sticks for the caramel apple/chocolate banana/popsicles, the paper cups for the chocolate truffles, and the box they are in. Everything else was made by hand.

The French Series

Scroll down for the American Series

“A raspberry set on a piping of whipped cream set on a crispy tuile, itself set on a bavaroise; tarte au citron, forêt noire, Mont Blanc, all those exquisite French pastries transformed into masterpieces of illusion in the hands of Shayna Leib, who indulges a passion for hyperrealism with fascinating technical virtuosity. She combines glass-which she has worked with for more than twenty years-with porcelain, creating perfect replicas of forty extremely sophisticated pastries, and setting them against forty American desserts. Culture against culture. In this elaborate trick, everything is artificial. Every detail fools the eye: glossy icing, chocolate ribbons, mousses, golden crusts, fruits, textures, sculpted sugar, colors. The cremè de la cremè, a feast for the eyes-but you could chip a tooth on it!”

— Olivier Castaing, Curator of Céramiques Gourmandes. Bernardaud Fondation- Limoges, France

On display at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Bordeaux, France
Photos courtesy of Helene Huret

The American Series

The American Series holds a special place in my heart as many of these creations are tied to personal memory; biting the butts and ears off of Easter bunnies, getting vanilla frozen yogurt with gummy bears after a difficult dentist appointment… Though not as elaborate, refined, or elegant as their French equivalents, these desserts are delightfully frivolous, playful, and colorful. Upon side-by-side inspection with their French counterparts, there are some hidden little secrets of this series: the cherries are brighter, the colors reflect our use of dyes and additives in America; even the chocolate is a different color from the French dark chocolate. The two displays interact, with the same dessert appearing in both cultures: gingerbread men vs. les macarons, chocolate kisses vs. truffles, as well as hot chocolate, chocolate cakes and jars of candy.

All photos: Eric Tadsen