Sunday, November 25, 2018

An Abundant Life - True Greatness

One evening last August I went to an art event at the Health and Fitness Club Base in Jersey City that was produced by the Artist Anthony E. Boone, Founder of Boone Art Life. I had met Anthony at a group show he was part of at 107 Bowers Gallery in Jersey City Heights, and when he invited me to his event at Base I put it in my calendar because there is something very special about Anthony and his work and I had a feeling it would be an inspiring event. It was a wonderful evening, full of visual and performing art, music, artisanal healthy foods and beverages and a wonderful group of people, but the artist Michael Dominick was sharing a live demonstration of painting with molten iron around the corner at Novado Gallery that I wanted to stop into, so after visiting for a while I left to go there. Before leaving, Anthony had pointed one of his colleagues out to me, and he'd said he was a Chef he'd collaborated with on another project. For anyone who knows me, I'm a foodie and I love to meet Chefs and write about them, but at the time when Anthony pointed this Chef out to me, he was busy on the phone and I had to leave. After the live demonstration, which was very wonderful to see - a molten iron painter out on the streets of Jersey City is not something that we see very often - I decided to walk back over to Base rather than going home, and I was very glad that I did. The party was still going, but it was beginning to wind down, and I asked Anthony if he could introduce me to that Chef. He did, and it turned out that the Chef was also an artist who had a studio in the Neumann Leathers Building in Hoboken, and he offered to give me a ride home and stop by his studio on the way. It was a beautiful night, and the weather was fine, so although it was getting late I said yes. The spontaneous saying yes at that moment was something I will always be thankful for because not only did I get to visit a studio full of art that was astonishing in the scope of its vibrant and colorful energy and life, but it began a conversation that has continued to bless me to this day.

Andre Kaulesar is an amazing Chef and an amazing artist. But he is also a person of integrity and loyalty, with a strong sense of responsibility for his family and the people who he works with. From the moment I met him I was inspired by his work, though the work I saw that night was in its early stages, and when I went back to see it again a few weeks later and then saw it at a recent show we collaborated on at the Antique Loft in Hoboken, I was amazed by the way the work had evolved and grown and been brought to glowing and inspiring life. I don't think Andre sleeps, or if he does, it's not very much. He works in Manhattan, as a personal trainer for Chefs and other professionals in the areas of health and nutrition and physical fitness, and in addition to the time he takes developing his art in his studio and working on his craft as a Chef, he takes care of his brother who suffers from very dangerous physical health issues related to a serious accident and his daughter who is fifteen and a star soccer player who he nurtures and trains and cares for like a good father. In the time that I have known him, I have seen his integrity and loyalty in action, and I have personally experienced his care, respect and regard for even someone like me who he doesn't know very well.

The first night when we went to his studio he was playing Led Zeppelin, and I told him that I have a very soft spot in my heart for them because I was in a garage band when I was in High School and we sang alot of their songs. Their hit "Good Times Bad Times" often comes to mind because I sang it so often back in those days, and the first verse starts out with the words, "In the days of my youth I was told what it was to be a man. Now I've reached the age I've try to do all those things the best I can." Andre Kaulesar is the kind of man who is truly great because he tries to do his best in every situation he is involved in and is a part of because he cares very deeply about other people, the world around him, and doing all that he does with excellence.

His background is a story that has so many facets to it that in many ways it could seem that he is more than one person. As a teenager he was tagged for the national team in Guyana, and was a star player who trained to be a professional until his parents moved to the United States. Now he trains his daughter in the soccer techniques that will help her perform at the highest level and works as a personal trainer helping Chefs and other professionals to become the strongest and healthiest they can be. He developed a passion for food and cooking and has become a Chef at the highest level, working in the most illustrious kitchen with the finest Chefs in the world. And then he discovered art, and in the work he is doing as it evolves, there is something that is so primal and spiritual and earth shattering and renewing that it is in its own way indescribable. Using shards of glass and mirrors, layers of oil paint and resin, his creations burst into life off of the canvas as if they have become spontaneously what they are without human effort. But the effort is there - hours of layering, painting and mixing of color, layering again and adding touches, smearing and mixing the paint and the colors with his hands, rubbing dirt and sand and broken glass pieces into the thick textures to add a new dimension.

A few weeks after Anthony's event at Base and my visit to Andre's studio, I invited Andre and Anthony to an event at the Antique Loft one night, and they took the time out of their busy schedules to go there. When I introduced them to Chef Paul Gerard, the Executive Chef and Partner of Antique Bar & Bakery who I have written about in these pages before who is also one of the Partners of the Antique Loft, he started looking at their work on their phones and they began to talk about a collaboration. It was a moment of a dream beginning to unfold, because this is the type of thing I have been doing for years but it had been a long time since I had done it, and the idea of working with those amazing artists in that space with the combined energy of Chef Paul Gerard was an incredible gift. As we began to plan and things took shape, Andre and Chef Paul decided to collaborate on food, and Shaq, another wonderful man who I met through the Mixologist Stephanie O'Neill who I have also written about in this blog, offered to donate wine from his excellent collection. The night was a night to remember that people are still talking about. As I wrote in my blog post about the Loft a few weeks ago, the space and design are stunning. With the collaboration of Chef Paul Gerard and Chef Andre the food was sublime, and the wine from Shaq only the best. The excellent artist and Sommelier Joel Lisco was also a part of the evening, and the combination of his work with Andre's and Anthony's in that gorgeous space made a visual spectacle so beautiful that it brought the evening to another level.

While we were still in the planning stages of that event, Shaq asked Andre to create a Chef's Table dinner at his apartment. I had the privilege of not only attending and being served by a master, but Andre invited me along for the ride the night before when he went to pick up some calamari and crab meat from his seafood supplier. It's hard to describe what happened that night without it sounding like we were doing something illegal. It was late when we headed over to pick up the seafood and the supplier had another appointment so he sent a text to Andre that it was in the trunk of a Ford Explorer parked outside of a luxury apartment building in Hoboken. He'd left the trunk open, but Andre and I couldn't stop laughing because it all seemed so crazy. How could we ever explain to anyone if by chance Andre tried to open the wrong trunk and the alarms went off? Just saying "It's in the trunk" can make us both laugh to this day. The food at Shaq's on the night of the dinner was amazing, and all the more so because Andre was cooking in someone's apartment kitchen where he'd never cooked before. I know what that's like because I've done it, and though I don't mind doing it, it can be a challenge. To create a meal of courses as intricate and beautiful and deliciously crafted as those Andre served takes a truly great Chef.

Before the event at the Antique Loft, and in the stages planning up to it, Andre showed his skill and commitment to excellence not only as an artist and Chef but as a planner. Even with his already full and busy schedule, he took time to make sure that the work was delivered and installed carefully, working with Anthony as an excellent collaborative team and according to a very tight schedule for a load in and load out. The event could not have been the success that it was without the combination of his amazing food, gorgeous art and the hard work he did behind the scenes that only those of us who understand the work that goes into planning an event would ever know.

In addition to everything else that he does, Andre also contributes his time to support other artists and other Chefs, donating work and preparing food for charitable causes and events to support education and mentorship in those fields. Whether in the kitchen, in the studio, as a trainer and teacher, caring for his daughter or his brother, Andre Kaulesar does not simply stop at excellence. There is a force within him that will not stop, even when he has reached a great height, and he'll keep pushing until he goes higher.

Andre Kaulesar
In His Studio
At The Neumann Leathers Building
300 Observer Highway
Hoboken, New Jersey

Work In Progress
On My First Visit To Andre's Studio

A Steer Skull Given To Andre
A Gift From A Top Chef In The World

The Evolution Of Selected Pieces
Photographs Courtesy Of Andre Kaulesar

 Installing A Show
With Artist Anthony E. Boone
At The Antique Loft
33-41 Newark Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

The Multi-Tasking Artist And Chef
Takes A Call

Completed Pieces
That I Had Seen In Earlier Stages
At My First Studio Visit
Installed At The Antique Loft



An Artist's Work

A Chef's Collaboration

"An Evening Of Art And Conversation"
At The Antique Loft

A Work Of Art
That Makes A Statement
Curator Jannie Wolff With Artist and Healer Dusty Weideman
From An Instagram Post By Dusty Weideman @dustylynn23

A Chef's Table
At Shaq's Apartment

In The Kitchen
With Artist Anthony E. Boone

With Artist Anthony E. Boone
At The Antique Loft

With Photographer Fred Watson
In Andre's Studio
At The Neumann Leathers Building
During The Hoboken Artists Studio Tour

Applying Gesso
To Prepare A Canvas

At Antique Bar & Bakery
122 Willow Avenue
Hoboken, New Jersey

With Artist Anthony E. Boone

An Artist And A Chef
Mixing Colors

A Blowtorch From His Chef's Kitchen
Used To Create A Special Effect In A Painting

Photo Courtesy Of The Artist


Jannie Susan