In its simplest form, Maremi Hooff’s art is about food, but things aren’t that simple and it represents so much more.
She grew up in Alexandria where she attended St. Agnes School. “I always wanted to be an artist,” Hooff said. “I don’t remember the first thing I painted, but in second grade when you dress up for career day, I’m sure I dressed up as an artist.”
One of her first opportunities to exhibit her work came in high school. “I had the opportunity to have a painting in an exhibit at the Judicial Center in Fairfax,” she said. “But it was taken out of the show because of what it contained.”
The work had various items, including a gun and a syringe. “My parents live on a farm,” Hooff said. “I just took items that represented different things and put them together. I wasn’t thinking about anything political and I wasn’t trying to make any kind of a statement. I just thought putting items that don’t usually go together in painting would be interesting.”
Although the painting never hung at the Judicial Center, it did hang in another show called Censored. “It was really a strange set of circumstances,” Hooff said.
She studied art in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Cornell and a master’s in fine arts from Clemson. “When I was at Cornell, I was inspired by some of the feminist performance art movement,” Hooff said. “But at the end of grad school, there was a moment where I wanted to work away from the literalness of the figure and I started painting packages that were wrapped up. I wanted to portray the expectation or anticipation that you might feel if you received a package that was wrapped up in ribbons and what you might anticipate seeing inside it. “
FROM PACKAGES she transitioned to painting bonbons because of the lines and grids. From there she painted a series of candies — peppermints, sugar daddies, etc. From there, she arrived at food.
“Food is just one of these inexhaustible subject matters,” she said.
Food led her to work in a community art project. “I spent time in this very small town in Utah,” she said. “I asked people to bring me family recipes and got more than a hundred. Considering that there were only 600 people in the town, it was amazing.”
One of her paintings was gazpacho and Sonorese cornbread. “I took all of the ingredients in the recipe and made it into a painting,” she said. “Then, we had a show and asked the people to make the dishes what were featured in my paintings. It was a great way of involving local residents of a very small town in art and of showing them that they have a cultural history and something to share of themselves. It was a wonderful experience.”
Food is one of the things that drew Sarah Franklin to Hooff’s works. “My husband Erik introduced me to Maremi’s work,” Franklin said. “She says we’re her biggest collector, but I don’t think so.”
The Franklins have 12 of Hooff’s paintings. “I work for a caterer so I was really interested in food,” Franklin said. “The first painting that I bought was of a red and a green pepper in shadow boxes. After that, I have bought something at every show we have attended.”
The food is about the contrast of shapes and color. “There are just so many different colors and shapes of food,” Hooff said.
She paints in a barn on her parents’ farm in Lorton and regularly exhibits her work locally. A number of her paintings will be featured in a new restaurant that will open soon in Alexandria and she is scheduled to exhibit some of her work at the Arlington Community Arts Center.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about Hooff’s work can go to her website at www.maremi.com or call her at 703-379-8929.