... Mildred Pierce Restaurant, where heavenly hip meets old-fashioned esthetics. Hidden away in a low-rise industrial building south of Queen Street off Dovercourt, Mildred Pierce (named for a Joan Crawford film noir) has been thriving for seven years... Last winter the restaurant also got a new look, less extravagant than its prior incarnation but still magical: Mammoth murals dominate the room. On the back wall is a Renaissance take on the Last Supper, opposite the open kitchen huge figures from the Classical Revival cavort on the walls. Diaphanous olive curtains hang from the midnight -blue seven-meter ceilings. THE GLOBE AND MAIL Joanne Kates February 15, 1997
In 1996 Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher (owners of the current Mildred's Temple Kitchen) commissioned me to redesign the dining room for their restaurant Mildred Pierce. I loved the existing space and took about a month to think about the offer before having a moment of inspiration - when I felt I could do something interesting with the already dramatic space. I wanted to maintain the industrial nature of the room as well as create a connection with the film and movie making work going on in the area at the time. I thought something dramatic - with references to theater. Dining out has always struck me as a kind of act of theater in itself with all kinds of people coming to dine together in a shared public space and I wanted to play with that..
Being a painter I wanted to use the wall surfaces to make a relevant connection with the diners and to tie in with what they were doing in the room. By making the painted figures a bit larger than life but not so large that the viewers wouldn't relate to them. I thought it would be fun to have the diners and the painted figures in a form of interaction as a kind of parallel act of theater.
That month I went to London and let the ideas I was forming brew in the back of my mind while exploring art and architecture in the city. It was when I got back that specific ideas about the wall figures started to take shape. I wanted the figures on the wall to move along in a parallel space with the wall and that a procession; a pun on the artistic convention of the military procession would be fun. The military procession became a parade of historical quoted figures from art history, carrying food from the south end of the restaurant's main wall towards the north wall (40' long). The trompe l'oeil columns visually created a colonnade for the painted figures to move behind towards the a banquet scene on the perpendicular wall - lovingly referred to as the "Last Supper" - no religious references intended. The vast industrial space was then visually scaled to the viewer further with the use of 20' organza panels suspended from the ceiling. The ideas, drawings and final painting were worked on in my Toronto studio with assistant Christine McKenney who kept things organized and blocked in grounds and kept measurements accurate.
Owners Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher were amazing. They let me create a vision for their wondeful restaurant trusting in my creative process. All of us, including some of the staff worked on the project during installation and when this new restaurant space reopened my work, for the most part, was over and their work creating and serving their renowned menu continued in their new space.
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