Presidential Portraits in Cupcakes
February 14, 2009 5:16 AM   Subscribe

To celebrate both St. Valentine's Day and Presidents Day, the Smithsonian American Art Museum invited artist/baker Zilly Rosen to create a duo portrait of Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln in cupcakes in the museum.

The construction of the portrait is being broadcast live on the Net. And, if you're in the area, the deconstruction (that is, the eating) of the portrait begins around 5pm EST today.
posted by Taken Outtacontext (15 comments total)
Throw in some wine and we've finally got our Presidential Eucharist.
posted by codswallop at 6:09 AM on February 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

So how long before the Associated Press claims ownership of this artist's sweet rendering?
posted by joe vrrr at 7:13 AM on February 14, 2009

i hope this dog isnt watching :3
posted by muymuy at 7:33 AM on February 14, 2009

How does this celebrate Valentine's Day?
posted by modernnomad at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2009

This is making me hungry for something sweet. I can't wait till 5 so I can watch people eat this. That will be cool.
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 at 9:07 AM on February 14, 2009

I just turned this on. There are people having a conversation near the camera (but not in the shot), and they don't seem to know their words are being broadcast on the internets.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 10:46 AM on February 14, 2009

How does this celebrate Valentine's Day?

Cupcakes = love.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:41 AM on February 14, 2009

Just out of curiosity, did this kind of bitmap art exist before computers? I dont mean anything like the famous Seurat painting, but art thats laid on a grid and each square represents one color. It doesnt look right unless you step away from it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:13 PM on February 14, 2009

yeh 'proto pixel art' it called cross stitchin yeh
posted by muymuy at 3:31 PM on February 14, 2009

Cross stitching looks fine while youre making it. Its a very detailed line art. This doesnt have lines. It only works because the colors blend into each other to give the illusion of lines and shapes. It looks completely computer derived. Its CGI art done with traditional materials, or cupcakes.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2009

I've been following this on Twitter and it feels mostly like an experiment in multistreamed social networking. It's cool, but it was a little over the top, promotion-wise, and the degree of tweeting about it -- more than a dozen "cupcakes are coming...don't miss it...let's keep it on the DL...cupcakes are here...we're gonna eat the cupcakes" felt kinda forced, like this was someone's big project to prove to the boss that this internet jive could really build audience.

I'm still all in favor of the internet jive for the Smithsonian, though. It just seemed like there was less 'there' to this project than the promoters wished.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2009

Actually, Miko, if you were "there" there was a lot of "there" (the cupcakes were actually pretty tasty). And if you weren't "there" the stream was a good "there" (but didn't taste as good).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:53 AM on February 16, 2009

As for the illusion of continuous tone in the images, when I looked at the portrait directly with my eyes, the images broke up a bit and it was harder to "see" the faces. However, when I viewed the portrait through my camera, the smaller size of the image made the cupcakes blend together and the faces became clearer.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:56 AM on February 16, 2009

I'm sure it was cool. What I'm saying is that the Twitter strategies, for me as a follower, grew irritating and less than effective. Since museums are still actively learning how to do Twitter marketing, for me this was instructive example that could allow future projects to be fine-tuned for greater authenticity and impact. Again, total props to them for being on Twitter and using it in a way that is event-based and rewards the user with useful content. But from the perspective of someone who couldn't be there, the hype was a little out of proportion to the streamed event. I don't mean to critique intent but to think about what's to be learned about effective social network marketing.
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2009

Some stuff I've been reading that is shaping my perspective and approach:

Open Letter to Museums on Twitter
10 Lessons Museums Can Learn from Twitter
Find Tweet-Sized Knowledge in the Museum Twittersphere

I bet this project was a pilot of sorts, aimed to test multistreamed social-network marketing as a pilot, and seeing how they leveraged it into MSM coverage in the Times and NPR as elsewhere is definitely testament to the success of the approach in terms of getting coverage in traditional media. They used the Twitter feed, a blog, the main website, the live stream, other video components, and a Flickr page, and they're collecting "your cupcake stories" as well. It's a full thwack-against-the-wall that seems like half coordinated campaign, half effort to see what sticks, and certainly the chosen project was an extremely media-friendly and pop-culture-friendly event. So the whole thing is interesting and I don't mind thinking about it from a "what's gained, what's to be learned" standpoint. I'm sure they are studying it as they go. My observation, as a big Smithsonian Twitter fan, is that +/- 30 Tweets in just four days or so is too many. It's not a slam on the event, just trying to take a thoughtful perspective, since we are still building to the tipping point for museums and social marketing, and there's a lot to be learned from early forays like this, especially such well-resourced ones.
posted by Miko at 9:19 AM on February 16, 2009

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