mike geno

Der Feinschmecker Magazine

February 2013

*Translation from German to English is below.

Der Feinschmecker Magazine

Der Feinschmecker Magazine

Der Feinschmecker

interview translated:

The American Mike Geno paints what he finds tasty – colorful, expressive, and astonishingly precise.  When the portrait is finished, the model will be consumed with pleasure.

The hardest part for the portraitist is having models that wont stand still. Mike Geno knows them too. “Some raw milk cheese simply doesn’t behave” he sighs.  “The cheese runs, loses its form – difficult, very difficult.”.  Hard and goat cheese , on the other side , are good models.  Or blue cheese: “It’s surface is so wonderfully unpredictable, the mold runs through the cheese like craters”.   The experience of painting the Strathdnon Blue, is almost like’  the  earth from above, or even the moon”. And the colors!”

No question, Mike Geno , loves cheese, for him the milk product is inspiration and muse. For two years the artist and passionate hobby chef, hardly painted anything else. (after a phase of meat portraits).  Portraits are kept to one kind of cheese per painting, oil on wood.  More than eighty cheese paintings have thus comes to life that were exhibited in Seattle and Philadelphia and have already appeared in the NY Times.  Geno sells his paintings for the equivalent of 500-7—euros, prints of sold paintings are available for 50 euros already.  Demand is enormous; “lovers of cheese are incredibly passionate people and often have a good appreciation of art”. 

On the walls of Mike Geno’s tiny studio, in Philadelphia, the artists credo is clear; the 42 year old  paints what he finds appetizing.  Expressive paintings of steaks, donuts, and hotdogs hang there, all kinds of raw and cooked bacon, which sometimes undulate erotically.  … and there’s an abundance of cheese.  French, English, Swiss cheese – all kinds, as long  as they are artisanal and not mass produced commercial cheese.

“I have never painted a cheese that I didn’t find tasty” narrates the artist.  Which is fortunate, since he eats all his models..  “I don’t know what makes me happier, to to finish the last brush stroke or to finally bite into the cheese” regarding his most recent work, the latter was clearly the case, eating the cheese.; “that was a blue cheese wrapped in brandy soaked fig leaves that smelled almost distractingly good, I could hardly stand it” .  With a truly wonderful cheese , fantastic.

Geno’s torture lasted for 5 hrs until he could finally dip a baguette into the Figgy Blue.  Rarely does a portrait of his take much longer.  With especially undisciplined kinds of soft cheeses, he has to work even faster – or put them into the freezer, turn down the temperature in the studio and turn down the lights.  “but I like it, I work very intuitively.  If I have too much time to think,  the results are less successful “.

Like many artists , Geno too has lived through various creative phases, but his oeuvres were always about food.  “I can’t help it”, he says.  He claims by nature, his father being Italian enjoys good things,  however his mother with Scottish/Irish roots is an exceptional cook, and he himself loves to eat.  During his art studies Geno worked as a butcher and raw meat phase began with a porterhouse steak that was “too beautiful to simply eat”.  After that, came the bacon: “I learned a lot about the color red.  The nuances of color within a single piece of meat, are fascinating, this can run from a warm almost mandarin-like tone to a dark cool magenta”.  In his cheese phase he is exploring yellow now?  “No, I hardly use true (primary)yellow.  Cheese exists in so many colors, beiges, green tinted white, yellowish gray, … “ 

Cheese is a whole universe, says Geno: “I could paint cheese for the rest of my life and only encompassed a part of it”   Yes, It could become a little bit monotonous in theory.  That’s why every now and then, he gets a different model into the studio; the cheese artist recently began painting sushi rolls. 


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