Kitchen art: A photographer's Cuba

Some of us collect fantasy kitchens to roll around in our imaginations. We spin them into dreamy scenarios of the lives we want to live, and of the people we want to be. Advertisers count on us to aspire to that gorgeous, granite-countertopped room with the stainless appliances where all good things will happen.

And they are onto something. I don't think any other room gets to us this way because the idea of the kitchen strums some primal chords in our psyches. In the best if all possible worlds, this room feeds us, brings us together, it warms us -- all those good old basic needs within four walls. In our imaginations, the kitchen has heart.

To some, like food photographer Ellen Silverman, that sense speaks through images of another place and experiences. Spare Beauty: Cuban Kitchens is her new gallery photo show in New York and an ongoing exhibit on her site.

Ellen describes Spare Beauty this way: "This past year, I traveled to Cuba three times. Having a strong interest in food and food photography, the kitchen was a natural subject for me to focus on. I was welcomed into homes where I found sparse spaces, where time has stopped. Due to years of lack of money, supplies and equipment, people have been forced to adapt and improvise. These photographs reflect the personalities and the circumstances of those who inhabit them."

Here is a sampling of Spare Beauty:

You've seen Ellen's work in magazines and books, including Gweneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter, and our book, How to Eat Weekends.

Find Ellen's Spare Beauty: Cuban Kitchens show and get a sense of how a food photographer works at her site, ellensilverman.com. The show is mounted from March 8 to 31, 2012, at The Umbrella Arts Gallery, 317 East 9th Street, in New York City.

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