Anastasia Inciardi: From Seed to Stamp - Tri-Art Mfg.

Anastasia Inciardi: From Seed to Stamp

Brooklyn-based food printmaker, Anastasia Inciardi, talks about Italian heritage, her viral vending machine, how she discovered her family's heirloom tomato and what she plans to do with it.

"My name is Anastasia Inciardi, but everyone calls me Ana. I'm 26 years old and I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where my whole entire family is from. Now, I live my life in Maine as a printmaker - primarily making art of food."

What inspired you to get involved with the art world?

Both of my parents are in the art world. My mom was a corporate art curator for a Wall Street firm and my dad is a museum curator. Though my dad doesn’t curate visual art - his exhibitions surround music at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So, at a very young age, I was always at museums. Later when I was 14 I started working in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Later when I went to postsecondary I really leaned into my museum interests and experience. My parents encouraged me to go down that path, and I loved it! I loved it so much. However, I kind of came to terms with the fact that I really didn't want to move forward with it.

Throughout school I was always making art, I just didn't really start to consider myself an artist until late college. I started learning about and practicing printmaking because of a history of printmaking class that I took. Ironically, I was kind of dreading taking the course. I didn't think it was going to be that interesting, but then it really changed everything. I wish I could take it over again. I tried to contact the professor, but I can't get a hold of her. I need to thank her for changing my entire life!

What is your form of practice and how would you describe the technical process?

So, I do release printmaking or block printing. Specifically in those categories, I do lino cut printing. I take linoleum, not that much different from what is used for floors. I carve into it and then use my brayer to cover it with printmaking ink. After that’s done I send it through my etching press, which is like a squishing machine, basically. Everything that I carve out does not get ink on it and doesn't show up. That's what's different than etching or intaglio printmaking. With intaglio and etching, you can scratch away where the ink goes in. So I do the opposite of that. People have been doing both types of these printing for hundreds and hundreds of years. Although I like to experiment with and appreciate all different types of printmaking, relief lino block printing is my central focus.

Addy will come home from the farm with an insane vegetable that she grew. Then I take photos and draw right onto the linoleum. I use an artist's unmounted linoleum and then I use printmaking ink. Then I have two printing presses. I have a little one that was a gift that my Aunt and it basically changed my entire life. I just got a new custom printing press a couple of months ago. I call the big one Mrs. Roly Squish and then the small one is Little Squish.

You had mentioned food as such a prominent part of your culture. What role does food play and how have you used it as a muse?

I am a fourth-generation Sicilian Italian. So, my family is very much food-obsessed! My parents, my sister, my grandparents; everyone in my family loves food. It’s the number one thing that we bond over and is what connects us the most, even more than art. Whenever we have an outing, the whole thing is planned around what we're going to eat. If we run an errand or go to a museum, the question is always about where we are going to eat afterwards. My great-grandmother actually wrote a Sicilian American cookbook which has some really interesting and some really amazing recipes. I’ll often call both of my Grandmothers to ask questions about cooking. So when it came time for me to decide what I wanted to make my art centred around, it was like really easy.

So when I decided to make my art niche, It was easy and so natural to make art of food. I decided to label myself as a food printmaker and everything changed.

My partner is a farmer, and she's obsessed with food as well. She works on a farm up here in Maine. Hopefully one day we're going to open our own farm, but for right now, she's a farm hand. She has so much knowledge about everything. That's another way that we've connected, through food. She brings home inspiration for me every single day, even in the winter.

My family has a lot of food around their houses now. I think it brings them joy because it's a lot of their favourite foods that we share and eat together. I think it makes everyone happy and I think that's what the main focus of my art is; to make people feel joy, happiness and nostalgia. Because of this, in 2020 I was inspired to do these $10 print sales where I would send a print shipped for free to someone who you were socially distancing from to make them happy and feel connected.

You have such an interesting anecdote about the Inciardi Tomato and how you discovered this heirloom. What's the story?

So in 2021, I had been a food printmaker for a year. Addy had been bringing food home from the farm and I finally wondered, why don't I have a tomato print? So, I had Addy bring home some tomatoes and I sketched and carved them. It was instantly my most popular print. I had never had that many orders as when I released the tomato. After, I was trying to research what my internet footprint looks like. I wondered what would happen if I Google searched “Inciardi baguette” - because I just did a baguette print, and it popped up. Then I looked up “Inciardi artichoke”, and my artichoke print popped up. Then, I looked up “Inciardi Tomato” and it did not pop up at all. Instead, there were 10 to 15 different articles about an heirloom tomato, the Inciardi Tomato, and how it's going extinct in America.

My last name is Inciardi and it is extremely uncommon. Barely anyone has the last name in America or even in Italy anymore. So I clicked on the first article and it said something about how the tomato was brought over by Enrico Inciardi in 1898. He had sewed the seeds into his clothing to get through Ellis Island, and it was his family's tomato. He lived in Brooklyn for a few years and then he moved to Chicago where he settled down. Immediately I thought, I must be related to this person. Then I found out that I really am. I did all this research and I got in contact with all these Inciardis who live across the country. I talked to all of my relatives to figure out how I was connected to this guy. And it turns out he's my great, great, great uncle.

The last farmers in America growing the tomato happened to be really close to him. So I got in contact with them, and they saved the seed for us. Now Addie is growing a stock of 50 of them at the farm she works at. We're writing a little zine artist book that we got a grant for, and it's really fun. She grew a couple of the plants last summer and we tasted them, they were great. They're paste tomatoes, so they're for sauce and they're delicious. The zine is about the Inciardi Tomato and other seed stories as well. We've been interviewing seed savers and seed growers. I just feel like if my ancestors knew what I was doing, they'd be like giving me a thumbs up. I'm making food art, and I'm marrying a farmer. I’m also going to sew seeds to the back of the zines. Addie's writing everything - I'm not a very good writer. This project has to be done by the end of August due to our grant funding, we can't wait!

Your viral vending machine video is how we first found you and your incredible work! How did you come up with the idea?

I first came up with the Vending Machine idea in 2020 because of a quarter shortage in America. I needed to do laundry because, well, I'm an artist and Addie is a farmer. We had laundry units that only take quarters in our basement. We didn't have bank accounts in Maine yet because we had just moved here. No one would give us quarters. So then I came up with an idea. I was inspired by these things called Art-O-Matics, where antique cigarette machines were filled with art by different artists across the country. But they weren't one dollar, they were more than that. They're at museums, they're at restaurants, they're in airports, they're at casinos, they're all over the place but filled with different local artists. They're also not flat. What I have is like a shoot out of a piece of flat artwork, but I was definitely inspired by them.

So I ordered a Vending Machine, but then 2020 happened and I was too overwhelmed by the process. I shoved the machine in my closet and then in December of last year, 2022, I had my first open studio and put the machine together. I printed 400 mini linocuts and I had a video that went a little viral. Everyone in Portland, Maine, loved it. It was so much fun. I had all these people come into my open studio and use this machine with bags of quarters. Then, just last month I finally put one in public at a store down the street from my studio. That video went really viral. I think it has like 13 million views! I thought I gave the store enough prints to last a month, but they sold out in one day. Now I have ten machines and I'm going to be putting them all over the country and hopefully in other countries as well. It’s so much fun, I love having art that's accessible. I think it makes people feel nostalgic for gumball machines, but also it's a real piece of artwork. I carved and printed it myself. I bring the machine sometimes with me to farmer's markets and it makes children happy, but it also makes adults happy.

It makes me really happy knowing that.

We can't wait to see what you do next. Do you have anything upcoming?

Right now, I’m working on a giant woodcut that we will be printing on. I'm working on it with five other artists, it’s a dining room table from above with six place settings. Each place setting is done by a different artist and then we have a bunch of other foods across the table. We're going to be printing it on fabric with a steam roller. It's a really fun project - I've never made anything this big in my life!

I'm really excited about is that there's a restaurant in New York that's aiming to open in September. One of the original founders is opening a new restaurant and I am doing the menu for it. But it's not a traditional-looking paper menu, every single ingredient has its own card with my print on it that looks like a tarot card. I've carved 50 prints, with different ingredients, for this menu. So that when this person sits down, all the cards are placed in front of them.

I also have a collaboration with a fashion designer that I’m really looking forward to! You can always keep up with me on my socials to see what's new!

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