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.