Chloe Wise Keeps Her Butter Warm and Close

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Illustration: Margalit Cutler

Ever since Chloe Wise’s infamous “Bagel No. 5” Chanel moment in 2014, food and humor have pervaded the Canadian artist’s work and life — and together, those elements comprise a sort of ethos. “For me, it was never really a question: What should I paint? Should it be people?,” Wise explains. “It was just, like, I paint people … I’m a lover of humans. We have sex, and food and shelter and sleep — but sleep is boring.” 

Wednesday, December 2
Coffee, which I have every morning and which I make at home with whatever I have — this time it was Peet’s — and soft-boiled eggs with focaccia I made around 11 p.m. because I’m into sourdough, as we all are in 2020. This particular focaccia had sesame seeds in the dough. It was a cute one. This was also lunch.

I’ve always been into cooking. I hope I don’t get into trouble for saying this, but I don’t have a real kitchen; I’m not supposed to have one in my studio. What I do have is a Breville smart oven and induction burner, and I have been cooking on that for years in the studio. COVID has gotten me into baking ’cause I hadn’t done sourdough previously. So I’m in full sourdough mode, which is very funny when you don’t have a real kitchen.

My oven is essentially a glorified toaster oven, but it does the job. I can only cook such small amounts, so I’ve learned how to paint and, honestly, with oil-paint-covered hands, I throw a bunch of vegetables in the oven, go back to painting, hear the beep, beep, and then I come back and take it out. But things are often room temperature, and I’ll do them throughout the course of the day. If I don’t have a friend over for dinner or a reason to cook dinner, I probably will just paint until four in the morning, and then my back will hurt and I won’t have eaten and it’s a whole nightmare, so it’s good when a friend is like, “I’m coming over for dinner.”

That means I have to stop painting, and I have to wash my hands because I’m feeding someone else and I don’t want to feed them oil paint … unless they want it — but, you know, it’s about consent here.

Baking has been cathartic in a way, but it’s also been really useful because I don’t find sourdough to be that time-consuming. I mix it, and then I paint, and then I fold it a bit, and then I paint, and then I have enough dough that I make a couple of mini-loaves, and then all week I have bread for myself. So — you heard it here first — sourdough is a time-saver. That’s my hot take.

I made dinner for my friend Carly. She loves my cooking, and I cook for her all the time. Salmon on top of fennel. It’s kind of like the Alison Roman recipe because I love that cookbook Dining In, which has proved to be useful during COVID. So it’s like a cast-iron skillet with shallots, fennel, capers, butter, salmon, and then I put that in the oven, and then I serve that to my friend with my sesame focaccia. And some organic Swedish Fish called DelishFish.

Thursday, December 3
I had coffee. Skipped breakfast. I had a weird brunch-lunch, which was prosciutto with figs and mozzarella. I just put them into little rolls while I did work, basically. I love figs, and then it was my assistant’s birthday, so I ordered her some cupcakes from Molly’s Cupcakes.

I got her a bunch of different kinds. I told her to take them home, but I shared one with her — safely, by the way — that was blueberry cheesecake.

That night, I went out for dinner if you can believe it. I went to the Odeon, which I missed so much. My week that I’m recording doesn’t necessarily reflect my normal weeks because I hadn’t gone out at all, but I went out twice on this weekend.

I went with three friends and we had the kale Caesar. I had the burger and too many martinis. I’m a rare or medium-rare for the burger. I’m not a sicko. Well-done is messed up. And fries as well. Naughty day. There was like a corn-flake cookie for dessert, and then we had whiskey at my house afterward, which as a combination is not ideal … but, you know, I was fine. I don’t want to set a bad example.

Friday, December 4
Woke up late. I usually wake up at nine and have coffee the second I wake up and then start working, but this past week I went to bed at four many of the nights because I was either staying up super-late painting, or I’d have dinner with a friend and they’d leave and I’d keep painting, or I’d have, like, the Odeon night and stay up super-late.

So this morning, I baked. I usually make a big batch of the sourdough and then I’ll separate it out. I made a big loaf, a little loaf, and I made myself a little squiggle baguette, a squiggly little “S.”

That’s all I ate all day ’cause I woke up late, and that night I actually went to the Odeon again because it was Jenna Gribbon’s exhibition at the Journal Gallery and they had a dinner for her. To make it COVID-safe, it was very few people — just the artists she had painted. The premise of her exhibition was she painted other painters. I was so honored. I was brought to tears. She did a painting of me. It’s so lovely, especially because she painted my paintings in the background. She’s so talented.

I hadn’t been to an opening and gallery dinner in so long, and it was just other artists because the gallerists sat at a different table. Like, we were at the kids table, so it was refreshing to be with people that I hadn’t seen, even though we had to first take our safety very seriously. Everybody else had martinis, but I had tea because I was hung-over from the martinis of yestereve.

I had roast chicken with a side of broccoli rabe. I will say that I’m usually much more vegetarian than I was this week. Then we had the sugar doughnuts for dessert. They’re like brown-sugar-coated little doughnut dudes with a caramel dipping sauce. Really good.

This week was a lot of meat for me. I was vegetarian for ten years, and my mom is an amazing cook, so from the time I was 13 years old onward, I’d be in the kitchen while she was making dinner, and I’d be making a vegetarian version of whatever she was making. I was never gonna go into food or anything, but I had to cook a lot when I was younger, and a lot of the food sculpture I do is not only because food occupies a really important space in terms of community and identity, but also because I love food.

There’s this amazing girl, Paris Starn. Her Instagram is incredible. We’re doing a dinner together next week actually for Hannukah. She’s amazing. I just was shown her Instagram, and I started being this absolute stan, and I went to this pop-up she had. She’ll post recipes which is very generous of her, and I’ll screenshot them and follow through and ask her questions.

I feel like whether it’s baking bread or painting or anything you want to learn, we’re so blessed in the digital-information age. Setting aside all the problems it gives us, we’re really blessed to have a lot of information at our fingertips if we want to find it. My ultimate procrastination is thinking, like, I should be painting, I’ll start cooking. I should be cooking, I’ll keep painting. But cooking comes up quite a bit.

In the summer, I learned to fish and forage. Baking sourdough and fishing and foraging — there’s a pattern here. I love to learn a thing that makes me not have to order. For me, it was never really a question: What should I paint? Should it be people? It was just like, I paint people because … I love faces, I love people. We’re social beings. I’m a lover of humans, and so that was never a question. Similarly, food. It wasn’t a question.

Saturday, December 5
I had some sourdough bread and butter and coffee. I keep my butter at room temperature on my table next to a big bowl of Maldon salt, so I can take bread and just do dippers while I’m having coffee.

I went to go see some art uptown — also very rare for me — but I left the house and I was hungry. My friend and I stopped at this bougie, organic-y spot that I had never seen before. I’m thinking it’s called Biologique, but that’s literally a moisturizer brand. It was something like that. I had a raw key-lime pie — a little circle made out of, I don’t know, chickpea flour or grass or something, and a choco-latte, which sounded healthy but was just hot sugar.

That night, I went to Virginia’s with my friend Paul and my boyfriend, Eric. Virginia’s is a really good, sneaky spot. Amazing burger, which I had, even though I couldn’t believe I was having a burger twice in one week. But I had to. It’s so good there. I split it with my friend, and we also split the burrata and fries. I had a Moscow Mule, and, later, at midnight, it became my birthday, and I turned 30.

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