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courtesy photo Barbara Harshman uses images from cookbooks, magazines and advertisements as models for her culinary-inspired art. The paintings are featured in ‘Making Food Work’ at the House of Creative Soul in Saratoga Springs.

Artist Barbara Harshman has been known to make a few stomachs growl.

The painter, who lives in Greenwich, expertly captures the fluff of frosting and the gooey fillings of pies in her culinary-themed canvases.

"I can't imagine not painting food. It's accessible. It's what we all know - that's one of the great things about food," Harshman said.

The artist's scrumptious oil paintings are featured in "Making Food Work," an exhibit running through April 1 at the House of Creative Soul in Saratoga Springs.

Although the art looks good enough to eat, Harshman said her approach is more about the visual than the gastronomical aspects of her subjects.

"It has nothing to do with eating it, cooking it or buying it," she said. "It has to do with how it presents visually."

Harshman works from photographs, which often are culled from magazines, advertisements and cookbooks. Her eyes and her taste buds aren't always in agreement.

"It has to do with the information the photo gives me. Desserts and vegetables have incredible architectural form. I love to eat pasta, but I don't love to paint pasta," she said.

Her artistic pursuits often break the rules of "locavore" cuisine. She's been known to purchase items like a Jell-O and Cool Whip cookbook just for the pictures.

"I like sort of sleazy cooking magazines. I think, ‘Wow, I bet people think I am looking at this for the recipes,' which I wouldn't do," she said.

Although Harshman prefers the fresh ingredients from her backyard garden when it comes to her own eating habits, unnaturally colorful photos of desserts - like a pineapple fruit layer cake - pique her visual interests.

"The photos are much more interesting. It gives me more information to work with," she said.

Bright yellow and fuchsia confections, more likely generated from Willy Wonka than Mother Nature, are ideal subjects.

"I want the paint strokes to translate into a visual reality. I ask myself, ‘Is that going to look like a pink chiffon pie with raspberries?' I sort of think about what it is as I work," she said.

The details are important, and Harshman is meticulous about capturing the luster of a syrup drip or a meringue's moist sheen.

Lately, Harshman has focused on the interaction between people and food.

Some paintings depict kitchen chores like squeezing a lemon or pouring syrup.

"I love to paint hands. It's the hardest thing to do," she said.

The artist has looked to how-to photographs for subject matter.

"Food magazines often have little pictures of how to make the big pictures. I love the hands and food together," she said.

But food isn't truly enjoyable until it's consumed. Recent canvases have featured a woman munching on a sandwich and a baby getting fed with a spoon.

"I thought it would be interesting to have people eating food," Harshman said.

Although the artist has been prolific through the winter, she'll pack up her paints once the weather warms and head to her garden.

"I need to be outdoors with my hands in the dirt. I have a large vegetable garden, and it's such a kick. I love watching the little seeds grow and become things like big tomatoes," she said. "I hardly paint at all once the ground thaws. You can't do both."

Harshman loves cooking with the fresh vegetables she lovingly tends to in the summer.

She not only makes culinary magic on canvas, but she also knows her way around the kitchen.

"I'm pretty good, so I've been told," she said. "I do love to cook."


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