For notable New Orleans-based painter Mallory Page, art is most certainly a calling. In 2018 alone, her work has featured prominently in the homes and projects of interior designers across the country and lined the walls of Bunny Williams’ showroom in New York—as well as take over the Martine Chaisson Gallery in a powerful solo show, A Ponderous Weight (I don’t remember if I was frightened or pleased). Named after a line from Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, the exhibition of large-scale, color-washed paintings ultimately became the starting point for a dinner party Page hosted on a balmy summer night at her home.
“As an artist, when you’re working so intimately on a project, it’s difficult to make that jump from your isolated studio to a super social gallery opening,” explains Page. “Besides being an extension of the the art itself, the dinner party allowed me to celebrate a body of work intimately with other artists, mentors and close friends.”
No stranger to food, Page—along with her husband Jacques Rodrigue—owns the Lafayette-based Blue Dog Café, a restaurant founded by her husband’s late father and famed Louisiana artist George Rodrigue. Riffing on ideas with head chef Ryan Trahan, Page crafted an eight-course menu steeped in art, place, and literature. “Together, we created and paired each plate to tell a story—I wanted the food to trigger an emotional response,” she says.
Inspired by the themes in Chopin’s writing—a fellow New Orleanian and early feminist writer who explores “that existential struggle for identity as a Southern woman and, more specifically, the performance of femininity in the South”—Page also drew from her own work to transform the tablescape into a rich tableau, essentially bringing her canvases alive for all the senses.
The moody blue-grey color scheme in everything from the delicate taper candles lining the table to the evening’s signature Aviation Cocktail created a calm and warm atmosphere.And the plates stamped with Venus statues are a wink to the lifesize versions that took center stage at Page’s show, while also evoking her work as a whole; the artist dubbed her studio, located just outside of the city, as Villa Venus.
“When I started thinking about extending the art project to a dinner party, the power of this Venus monogram took on a new form,” explains Page. “I began to see them as design objects and tableware. I think they turned out beautifully, and I can’t wait to do more with it.”
“Like an art project, a memorable dinner lies in the details,” explains Page of her approach to entertaining.
Here, she shares a few more ideas on creating a magical, art-inspired evening.
Find your palette
“I translated the canvas directly to the table. The artworks were for the most part variations of blue, and so the tablescape evolved naturally from there.” Unexpected touches, such as the candles and cocktail also being awash in the distinctive blue-grey, fully immersed guests in the experience.
“Give your guests something to speak about the next day, something that they’ve never experienced before,” suggests Page, “Never use the same party trick twice.”
“Know when to be a planner and when to be a host. In other words, know when to stress and when not to stress. Once the party is underway, Page recommends putting the attention on the guests. “They are the most important. Give them the attention they need.”
“Remember that your guests have come because they love you. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a quick hand if you need.”
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