Not everyone understands Peter Wooster. He was blessed with one of those unique, creative minds that’s more like a labyrinth and less like a straight axis. He’s never traveled the beaten track. But Carole Peck can read him loud and clear. She’s always been on the same wavelength as Mr. Wooster. And that was one reason why she asked him to install a show of his collages at Good News Café in Woodbury. It opens on April 7 with a reception from 3 to 5 p.m.
Peter Wooster has a lot to say. For most his career, he focused on design in the architectural realm—designing ORSO restaurants in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and London as well as designing numerous private homes. From there, he branched into garden design in private and public venues—including the Seasonal Walk for the New York Botanical Garden. But some would say that his own garden—with its brilliant use of quirky kitsch carefully (and sparingly) applied—is his greatest triumph. The garden is a simple configuration of rectangular beds set within a larger framework defined by a magnificently lichen-encrusted picket fence. Within that rubric, he worked a very intricate weave of perennials, bulbs, annuals, shrubs, and trees to create an expression that forces you to focus on every element. Nobody takes the fast lane through Peter Wooster’s garden—its complexity doesn’t permit a quick passage. And no matter how closely you look, there’s more to see. You come away with your head spinning. Basically, he forged a new map for gardening—all within his simple rectangular format.
Peter Wooster was going along—designing up a storm, juggling multiple arenas, all the while regaling everyone with his acerbic wit—when he suffered from a devastating stroke in 2006. The stroke left him with diminished use of speech and mobility, as Sydney Eddison—Mr. Wooster’s long-time friend and assistant in the making of his collages wrote—the stroke “robbed him of words; the use of his right arm and leg; his design career; and even his garden.”
But again, Peter Wooster has a lot to say. First, he redesigned his home so that it allows him to move freely with his wheelchair among his exhaustive collections of natural objects and art. Then, he crafted an outdoor patio that permits a commanding view of his garden—which he weeds via wheelchair, while the daily maintenance is accomplished by his gardener, Rob Girard.
However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Mr. Wooster’s need to share his views on life. He tried drawing with color pencils. He was frustrated by charcoal sketching, watercolors, and photography. Nothing really fulfilled the perfectionist within him. Then a friend brought pieces of construction paper, and playing with those pieces of paper nurtured the birth of the collage concept. He began cutting up magazines. It started with The New Yorker, and he dissected each issue to piece together a singular vision of the world as it is happening. He slashes photographs to reveal another aspect of their form. He focuses in on an eye, an ear, an arm, a blossom. He turns things askew, he relates objects, or puts them in opposition to one another. He finds new meaning. He makes a statement. Just as he blazed a new path within the geometry of his garden, he works with the photographs—and sometimes the text—in The New Yorker to tell a story and shift the world around.
Since then, he’s branched into other periodicals – arts magazines, news magazines, even the stock market reports. He plays with themes. He experiments with color. He balances agony and ecstasy, beauty and filth, pain and joy, sexuality and inhibitions, freedom and suppression, you name it—his collages express life with a strong, clear voice that cannot be stifled.
Meanwhile, Carole Peck was also launching into her trajectory of renown in the food arena, first with a restaurant in New Milford in 1988 and then, five years later, openingwww.good-news-cafe.com."> Carole Peck’s Good News Café in Woodbury in 1993. Carole Peck is basically a renegade chef. Never governed by the road map that constricts most restaurant fare, she forged her own dialog with taste, exploring adventuresome combinations that change the way you think about your mouth. At Good News Café, you can start with the salad course to discover daring combinations such as beet, avocado, pea, cucumber, and greens salad with horseradish chive cream dressing or smoked salmon with warm cauliflower flan and pink guava dressing. And where else will you find baby spinach tossed with warm ginger tofu, pineapple, grapes, shiitake mushrooms and sunflower seeds? Color plays a part in Carole Peck’s culinary collages. She takes a spin with food that touches all the senses. Each with their own palette/palate, Peter Wooster and Carole Peck have played with the way we think about what is essential in the world—shelter, food, and nature.
Carole Peck has always had an affinity for art. When she opened the restaurant in Woodbury, she conceived it as a gallery as well as an eatery. Curating the art element is the domain of her partner, Bernard Jarrier, who is dedicated to exposing people to art in all aspects of their lives. “Not everyone will walk into a gallery,” Carole Peck says, “but they spend time with art here. They can sit, eat, and come back. It’s not detached. Art, food, and good taste are what we’re all about.”
The two mavericks were destined to come together. Peter Wooster made frequent visits to Good News Café and Carole Peck reciprocated by calling on Mr. Wooster at home. That’s where she discovered his collages and immediately recognized their importance as an expression of art—and felt a bond. “He talks to you through these collages,” Ms. Peck says, “They are political, they are about sexuality, there’s always that noir element. The work is pretty amazing.” And her immediate next thought was, “Why can’t we have a show?”
It is the perfect match. As Carole Peck sees it, “I hope my food is not perceived as a piece of fish with polenta. It’s about the texture and the crunch and how it will work in your mouth. That’s what Peter Wooster is trying to do in his art.” The beauty of this show is that it is transformational. It’s about looking, seeing, tasting, understanding, and art. It’s also about courage and discovery. It should not be missed.
The www.good-news-cafe.com.">Good News Café gallery in Woodbury will exhibit 22 collages by Peter Wooster from April 7 to June 4. An opening reception for the show and sale is scheduled on April 7 from 3 to 5 p.m. Wine and nibbles will be served. The restaurant’s phone number is 203-266-4663 and the Web site is www.good-news-cafe.com.">www.good-news-cafe.com.