This artist has a delicious specialty: food photos
Angel Tucker is a food photographer, one of a number of young working artists who, over the last decade, chose to make the East Bay her home and who have collectively helped drive Warren's artistic renaissance.
One of many in the Cutler Mills complex, Angel shares a large but warm space with another artist, part of which looks like a photographer's studio, with a tripod, lights and umbrellas. The front half of the space feels more like a home, complete with an office, kitchenette, and seating area anchored by a cluster of random, but comfy chairs. The walls are lined with shelves stuffed with props and other eclectic objects—including some mid-century cross-sections of plants from the collection of Angel's father, a retired botanist. It resembles a post-graduate apartment. Or a sitcom set.
Indeed, a good friend of Angel's, playing hooky from her grown-up job in Boston, is hanging out for the day. I'm jealous; it looks like a great place to relax and chat, and Angel herself is affable and easygoing, with a manner that could let her work with a room full of excited kids as easily as she manages the uncommunicative comestibles that are the subject of most of her work.
Food photography is a particular specialty, and it found Angel organically. After studying communications at Syracuse University (where she met her husband, furniture-maker Jonathan Glatt, who was studying jewelry design at the time) they moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, and she looked for work in New York City. She found plenty, photographing for magazines, public relations firms, and television and film clients; but it was ultimately a food photographer who gave Angel her big break.
After a number of years, she and Jonathan were ready to move on. It was a toss up between Rhode Island or Asheville North Carolina, but RISD (for Jonathan) and The Museum School in Boston (for Angel) tipped the scales in favor of the Northeast. After living in Providence for a year they were itching to fix up an old house, and found their home in the former parish house of St. Mark's Church in Warren; it's been a labor of love ever since.
In 2003 Angel moved into the Cutler Mills studio. In addition to her commercial and art work, she also teaches photography at Bridgewater State, and she and Jonathan are raising two young boys: Phineas, four and a half, and Desmond, 19 months.
Today, the table in the area of her studio where she shoots is heaped with food, in a way that, if I were to take a photo, it would look like a self-congratulatory instagram of my shopping cart, with the "buy local" angle providing the moral authority. Angel is preparing to shoot a cover of local food products for Rhode Island Monthly, and through her lens, groceries become art.
Which is why it should surprise nobody who is familiar with her work that the James Beard House emailed not long ago to invite her to exhibit in their Manhattan headquarters. There was only one possible answer, and it wasn't no. "That's like a chef saying that he doesn't want to be nominated for a James Beard award!" Angel said. "It's different than having your work hang in a traditional gallery—it's being seen by foodies, not art patrons. It's a very different audience."
Looking forward, Angel is happy working in this market. She's the proverbial big fish in a small pond—a far cry from when she was working in Manhattan. "I'd love to do more cookbooks," she says. But the local market keeps her busy, and she still has the occasional NY client. And her name? Like the old-school cross-sections, the root is in her father's love of plants. "My name is actually Angelica, which is a medicinal herb—one of the first listed in the "Big Book of Herbs" my father wrote several years ago. My sister is Melissa, that's a lemon balm," she said. And her brother? "My father wanted to name him Basil, but my mother put a stop to that. So he's Arthur."
Angel's show, "Still life with…" is currently hanging at the James Beard House at 167 W. 12th St., New York, and will be there through June. The opening reception will be held May 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information on Angel and her work, visit www.angeltucker.com.