To most viewers, a work by Pat Lasch would appear to be a piece of cake. In fact, her products are inedible, not to mention lethal. Lasch, 34, is a serious sculptress who has elevated the business of crafting cakes to a fine art. How well she has succeeded can be judged at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art, which, after commissioning a five-foot Lasch confection for its 50th anniversary this week, will put on a cake sale, pricing Lasch’s demure little birthday creations at $260.
Lasch’s works are fashioned from wood and rag paper and iced with poisonous acrylic paint. “I’m not interested in baking,” insists Pat, though she began her training at the side of her father, Fred, a German-born master baker who had a shop in Queens. “My father is an artist in his own right, and I would work with him all night,” she remembers. “I decorated my sister’s wedding cake when I was 14. I did communion, confirmation and bar mitzvah cakes. What I learned from my father I transformed for myself.”
Marriage at 18 and the birth of daughter Melinda a year later delayed Pat’s studies at Queens College. Eventually she was forced to choose between her art and her marriage. “My ex-husband wanted me to stop because I was taking too much time away from him and our home,” Lasch explains. “I had to choose my work.”
The “passages” of life are her inspiration. “I’ve always been interested in death,” Pat admits. “I want to know what that transition is about. But I’m also interested in union and marriage. The crucial question for me as an artist is, ‘Who am I? Where am I from?’ ”
Where Pat Lasch is going these days is usually to another exhibit of her work. In April she will have a show in Sweden. The art she’s cooking up now is far more substantial than the sculptures made of cake icing she used to make as gifts for friends. The recipe for success is really quite simple, muses Lasch. “My father had a saying, ‘If you make a mistake, put a rose on it.’ I think that’s apropos of life.’ ”