Pour an artist a cocktail to “stir the creative juices,” then hand over a Sharpie and a napkin. What doodle will result? We find out in this just-for-fun Friday series.
The Cocktail: A Tequila Sunrise, orange juice, grenadine and tequila, at Colorado Bob’s Ship of Fools
The Artist: Jay Alan Babcock, graphic designer and painter. “I’m really interested in the visual language of Americana,” Babcock says. “Look at the design of that cigarette machine in the corner, for instance. The cursive typeface and the curved triangles displaying the brands of smokes for sale above those lucite knobs say 1960s. Why is that?”
“I once painted still lives of kitchen appliances: percolators, toasters, Sunbeam mixers — all of the modern conveniences that make us American — but lately I’ve been obsessed with old high school yearbooks,” he says. By extracting group images from those archives and amplifying them, his current body of work explores the homogenization of identity by institution. Orange neon skin glows beneath a basketball team’s pale uniforms, and the likeness of each player is mirrored in a silvery gym floor. The short, side-parted male haircuts of upperclassmen circa 1965 look even more invariable when they’ve been drawn onto card stock, then repeated and re-aggregated to fill an entire wall. Cafeteria workers in white zip-front dresses seem like a carton of eggs against a yolk-yellow backdrop. You may see embryonic fascism in his hyper-proliferated pep-rally tracings or dissociation in his portraits of mop-headed juniors who’ve been forced to wear coat and tie for posterity.
“Most recently, I’ve been collecting yard sales signs,” Babcock says. “I enjoy the hand lettering, the arrows, the mistakes, the crappy materials used — absolutely everything is wrong with them from a packaging and graphic design perspective. Yesterday my son said, ‘Dad, you are the weirdest person I know.’ ”
What made you choose a Tequila Sunrise?
It goes well with our tropical ambiance. I was torn between that and some kind of rum drink. I mean, look at those blue marlins and that pirate flag on the wall. That’s the best Jolly Roger I’ve ever seen. If I were to be totally in tune with this place, I’d just order a bottle of rum and start yo-ho-hoing. It sure is clean in here, though, despite the smoking.
What sort of restaurants do you like in St. Louis?
My all-time favorite place to eat in the area is out at Claverach Farm and Vineyards in Eureka, Mo. They offer an amazing Sunday supper series. The meals are served to live music in a gorgeous old barn with a wood-fired stove. Sometimes they’ll have a guest chef from St. Louis prepare the menu. Last Sunday, it was Linda Pilcher from Something Elegant Catering. I was fortunate enough to design some wine labels for their vintages.
Probably my favorite dish in town is tacos al pastor at La Vallesana on Cherokee street. Pork tacos with grilled pineapple inside - just delicious. I really love the pizza at the Good Pie, too. They use simple but super high-quality ingredients like fresh mozzarella; the crust and marinara there are fabulous.
What kind of food do you eat at home?
B: I’m kind of scared of our meat supply, so at home, I stick to vegetarian fare. Stir fries and baked tofu. I love Italian food, too. I make a killer veggie lasagna. A bunch of basil and tomatoes are growing in my backyard now; later this summer, I’ll freeze big batches of tomato sauce and pesto to get me through the winter. Last year, my tomato sauce supply held out till March.
Colorado Bob’s Ship of Fools, 3457 Morganford Road, Tower Grove, 314.772.7564
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