Sam McBride’s Southside home studio is riddled with the usual accoutrements of an artist—easels, an array of paint tubes, and in her case, 365 different depictions of toast.
“I wanted a daily drawing exercise and I wanted something simple and something universal,” she says.
It started off as a gag, when a friend from New York told her how much she missed her French toast. “I’ll mail you some,” McBride joked and proceeded to make a drawing for her. Her light-bulb moment revealed, McBride repeated the action for a full calendar year.
“I couldn’t reconsider. I posted it every day on Facebook and on my website, so once I started to blog I was held accountable,” she says. “I did think I was crazy many days—this is a four or five hour—sometimes all-day project.”
In completion of the carb-filled project, McBride notes, she gained 15 pounds.
Her persistence was inspired by Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara, who has painted the date every day since January 4, 1966.
For McBride, her series became reflective and meditative.
“A piece of toast is a more complex object than I had ever imagined,” she says. “And then there are connotations that come up: there’s the smell of toast; my dad used to make something he called ‘milk toast’—which was just toast with butter, sugar and milk on top, and we would eat that together—so there was some sentimentality to the project.”
Another familiar note came when McBride reminisced about a particular devotional her grandparents used to read to her. “I hated it, I dreaded it,” she says. It was called The Daily Bread.
“I started thinking about art as my religion or my spiritual practice,” she says, standing near a particular toast drawing, number 326, that has bites taken out of each corner of the slice, making it appear to look like a cross.
McBride shows her pieces on Saturday alongside Clayton Porter in Offroad Productions’ Toast + Cowboys. Following the theme of elevating the mundane into art, Porter is presenting a series of meticulously drawn buckaroos.
The odd pairing, exhibit curator Cyndi Conn says, developed organically.
“I realized that curatorial approach typically ends up being so much more about the curator than the art itself,” Conn says. “So rather than curate artists to fit my theme I decided to pick artists doing incredible work in our community who deserve attention and see how the show evolved. Sam and Clayton immediately came to mind.”
“When I come up with and idea that’s complex or too thought out, I think it makes it more difficult to transcend the idea,” McBride explains of her inspiration. “There’s something that happened during this project that transcended the idea of just drawing a piece of bread every day—I don’t know if it was the number or my commitment or the purity of it—it’s hard to describe.”
Rye, wheat, cinnamon raisin and beyond done in Sharpie, graphite pencil and ballpoint pen populate McBride’s artistic breadbasket.
“Olive bread makes a nice piece of toast,” the connoisseur says.
Unlike Kawara, McBride conscientiously decided to cut the project off at the year mark. “After it was over there were people saying, ‘What are you gonna draw now?’”
The stint over, the artist regained a short-lived sense of freedom. “I felt like I was on vacation,” she says. “Then there was a part of me thinking, you should really draw something every day.”
She’s currently on the hunt for that creative spark that’ll inspire “the next 365.”
“It’s compulsive and it’s obsessive, but there’s also freedom in it,” she recognizes. “There’s just this toast and I have to draw it to the best of my ability. Tomorrow Ill think about tomorrow.”