Art exhibit is toast of the town


LOS ANGELES -- An installation by a San Francisco artist is the toast of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa -- literally.

In fact, the artworks on view at a mall gallery of the Laguna Art Museum feature thousands of slices of toast.

The artist, Dawn Fryling, estimates that one piece, a towering mound called "Pile o' Toast," consists of about 3,000 pieces of lightly browned bread.

Another sculpture, "Kilpatrick Unit," is comparatively small, with about 1,000 toasted pieces of bread from Kilpatrick's Bakery, a San Francisco-based chain. Their arrangement in a narrow, 12-foot box is "all orderly," Fryling, 30, said.

"I love to bake," she explained. "Subconsciously, maybe that's where it comes from. But that's not what interests me on a conscious level."

She said her interest in bread is "more formal."

"We see it day in and day out. When you put it into this art setting, you look at it differently. Each piece can be quite beautiful and different, and you don't realize that until you study them."

"Bread, 6," "Bread, 7" and "Burnt Toast" provide such an opportunity. The 40-by-50-inch photographs give a blown-up view of the bread brand favored by the artist for its economical price.

Fryling said she hit upon Kilpatrick bread as a master-of-fine-arts student at the San Francisco Art Institute between 1986 and 1988.

"I was strapped for money, and I had projects to complete, and I noticed that bread was a cheap material," she said.

But doesn't she worry about squandering food in a country where, according to a recent survey, one in eight children suffer from hunger?

"You could say that material used for art is wasted, because it's not serving some practical need," she said. "You could say that steel in a sculpture could be used for something better, but I just don't buy it. I believe art's important."

Fryling doesn't even seem concerned about the possibility of vermin.

"I don't worry about weevils," she said. "I've never had problems in the past."

At previous exhibits, mice tracks have been spotted, she said. "But I haven't heard of any this time."

The artist said it took about a month for her, husband Bill Odegard of San Francisco and mother Dee Fryling of Costa Mesa, to toast all the bread in the exhibit. "It was pretty tedious," she said.

Not content merely to explore toast, Fryling features flour in three pieces featured in the exhibit. "I just find it visually sensuous," she said of the white stuff.

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