Bailey Farren doesn’t just have unusual taste in art. You might say she has unusual tastes in her art — chocolate, soy sauce and marshmallow, to be exact.
The 17-year-old Rohnert Park resident has been enjoying an explosion of creativity ever since she began experimenting with food as an art medium about a year ago.
It all began when she was at a crab feed to raise money for her friend’s school, and someone plopped a piece of chocolate cake on her plate.
Not a fan of that particular confection, Farren began spontaneously pushing the chocolate frosting around her plate. Pretty soon she had painted a sunset, and her grandfather, Gerry Farren, took notice.
On her 17th birthday, her grandfather gave her a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate frosting and as a joke told her to go paint a masterpiece. She took it as a challenge.
Using the thick brown spread as her medium, Farren replicated Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
She insists that at no point in the process did she get the urge to sample her sugary creation.
“If I liked eating it, I wouldn’t be painting with it,” Farren said.
When she was finished, she posted the image on Facebook and “everyone freaked out.”
The overwhelming response spurred her to try other nontraditional mediums, some more permanent than others.
Extra soy sauce on her sushi plate became a portrait of Einstein. Thai iced tea was transformed into a koi on a restaurant table cloth. And perhaps her most ambitious project — 36 bags of marshmallows mounted on a plywood board and singed with a blow-torch into a huge image of a light bulb.
Farren’s unconventional approach to art has grown out of an upbringing that encourages creativity.
She and her four brothers have all been home-schooled by their parents, Susan and Dan, a paramedic and firefighter. She’s always been encouraged to pursue her passions, which include ballroom dancing, sign language, and cross-country running.
Now, she wants to share her passion for unconventional art with the less fortunate. Farren is leaving next week on a three-week trip to Africa to bring art supplies to orphanages. Her goal is to help give people in the most desperate situations an outlet to express themselves through art.
But she knows that the art supplies she’s bringing will only last so long. So she also wants to show children who have nothing that with a little imagination they can create art using everyday materials, such as ashes, mud, charcoal, or coffee.
“I want to teach kids that beauty can come from absolutely anywhere,” she said.
She also hopes to learn more about the coffee trade while in Africa, which she suspects exploits young children. She plans to use the trip to inspire future art projects, driving home the need to support free-trade coffee.
The medium? Coffee, of course.