• Rachel Hovnanian
  • Rachel Hovnanian
  • Rachel Hovnanian


We smelled fresh coffee and pecan pie at Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s MUD PIE exhibition, but found out they are all manufactured in a chemist’s lab, not a kitchen. In the interactive exhibition, at Leila Heller Gallery (through June 2), Rachel asks, “What’s real, what’s not?” Everything is beautifully fake, including the flowers — metal floral sculptures. We asked Rachel, photographed here in front of Gates of Narcissus series, about it all….

What inspired Mud Pie?
Sitting on the ground in my backyard making mud pies as a child in Texas, swallowed up in the world of make believe. I recall the smell of pie in my mother’s kitchen — she’s a gourmet cook and ran a cooking school. The smells of mud pie and apple pie all at once trigger powerful memories. I recall fresh-cut flowers and my mother’s garden, and in the summer I kept fireflies in a jar — my first neon memory. For MUD PIE, I created a dream-awake state, a narrative beginning with my early childhood and finishing informed by the world of technology.

If you owned one piece of another artist’s work, what would it be and why?
I enjoy the music of Freddie Hubbard,  Joao Donato, Chico Buarque and recently Scorcese’s documentary Surviving Progress, together this work inspires me.

Tell us about the Gates of Narcissus panels….
These metal panels are extremely seductive and very large. Thousands of hand sculpted metal narcissus flowers are attached to industrial sheets of steel. We stare into the  idealized surrogate image — we easily lose ourselves. We are warned of the tragic fate of Narcissus!

More to explore in Culture