A Piece of Cake by F. Scott Hess is currently on display in Laguna Art Museum's permanent collection exhibition Collecting California: Selections from Laguna Art Museum. This large painting is autobiographical, and records the events at a party which the artist attended.
Hess is a Los Angeles-based realist painter whose work explores vaired themes based on popular culture. Hess also bases many of his works on autobiographical material, but, according to the artist, few are as directly autobiographical as Piece of Cake (1986). Hess based the painting on the events at a party he attended in downtown Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. Late in the evening, an African American woman arrived at the party looking for a "friend," but clearly knew no one there. shortly after her arrival, she announced that she had been raped. Some of the few remaining partygoers offered her the last of the leftovers, a piece of cake, while other interrogated her with a variety of questions. Hess recalls, "The night was a racial, sexual whirlwind, and I knew in that moment it would be a painting." Hess went back to the apartment to capture the exact details of the kitchen and use the same party guests as models, but the artist invented the African American woman from his memory of the night's incident.
Hess notes, "My painting style at the time was rough, and the planes consisted of very active blobs of color laid down next to the others, sometimes compliments. The idea was the activate the surface, to make it writhe and seethe, as if heated from underneath. Then I'd set the viewer up in the air, in an impossible place, almost imposing vertigo. The intent was to leave the viewer in an unstable spot, suspended above this bubbling paint. I didn't want to soothe, but to disturb, with the hope of spurring the viewer to think more deepy about what they were looking at."
F. Scott Hess was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1955. In 1977, he received his bachelor of science in art degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1979, Hess moved to Vienna, Austria, where he studied for five years with the Austrian painter Rudolf Hausner, who has been credited as the first psychoanalytical painter. Through his artistic teaching experience in Vienna, Hess gained greater exposure to techniques of old master style painting, which profoundly influenced his work.