The Art of Dining

  • An inspired table setting using old copies of Artforum and Harper's Bazaar, reflecting our hosts' vocations.

  • This installation by Mattia Biaji broadcasts his wife Valerj Pobega's eyes. The knob at the table edge turns to activate the toasting goblets.

  • Portraits of Mattia+Valerj taken the first week they arrived in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

  • This mirrored step ladder is one of my favorite pieces from Mattia's current work.

  • Video installation by Mattia Biagi.

  • This piece by Mattia Biagi addresses taboos regarding shattered mirrors.

  • Inside the studio...

  • Salt and the luck that can befall users who don't respect it is among the superstitions Mattia Biagi deals with in his work.

  • Brass vessels by Mattia Biagi.

  • Mattia Biaji works his risotto into creamy splendor. Wife Valerj Pobega cooked the mushrooms in advance of the evening at their home.

  • Mattia at the makeshift burner outside the studio. Little Nina was smitten by him, especially once he gifted her a teddy bear left over from his "tar" series.

  • Designer Valerj Pobega in her studio.

  • Inside a curiosity cabinet in Valerj's studio.

  • A detail of accessories and dress by Valerj Pobega.

  • A tray of Valerj's accessories, including her signature dripping brass rings.

  • These handpainted sheer kimonos by Valerj Pobega are prized by the likes of Shirley Manson and other indie musicians.

  • A trio of Valerj Pobega's one-off gowns.

  • An addictive bowl of risotto and wild mushrooms, the perfect antidote to a chilly October evening.

There are few luxuries we prize more in life than a meal with good food and good talk. As luck would have it, Andy and I get to indulge in such a pleasure more often in a month than our waistlines should bear, and at times under extravagant circumstances. Yet one of the most no-frills dinners this year turned out to be one of the chicest, a simple candle-lit supper of homemade risotto and wild mushrooms cooked on an outdoor burner and served inside the inspired studio of fashion designer Valerj Pobega and multimedia artist Mattia Biaji.

The Italian natives relocated to Los Angeles about a decade ago. We met them a few years later through mutual friends, and have been threatening to have dinner ever since. Finally we did during the first truly chilly evening this season.

While the two former models both use their appearance as an extension of their creative expression (witness Mattia’s prolific Instagramming), Valerj is the one who has committed herself to fashion. Well, in a manner of speaking. Self-taught at clothing construction, Valerj is as much an artist as her husband, approaching silks like a canvas, her labor-intensive, limited-edition and one-off kimonos, gowns and separates more artistic than commercial. She repeatedly dyes and treats gossamer textiles to give them the patina of depth. Paint is calculatedly dripped, the result resembling inky oil seeping down delicate fabrics.

The impression of something crude evokes the jet-black tar oozing over a machine gun or teddy bear, a thickly-coated trope that Mattia explored over a multitude of objects and that put him on the map in galleries between LA. and New York and Milan. Given the pair play and work day and night side by side (not unlike another couple we know…), it’s no surprise they share certain aesthetic and creative proclivities. Mattia has since put the lid on his tar series, in recent years exploring the taboo of superstitions and beliefs. His exploration of broken mirrors and salt (from spilling it to the misfortune of Lot’s wife) now fills the majority of their Culver City studio.

On this evening, however, the hit of salt piquing our senses was that of the freshly grated Parmesan on the heap of mushroom risotto in our bowls. We were on to our second bottle of wine by now (following a bottle of sparkling rose!), and wondering why it took us so many years to finally sit down over a meal.



Posted In: Art, Cooking, Entertaining, Fashion, Food, Style, , , , , ,

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Rose Apodaca