“All The Alice Vails,” 2019. Thirty-two found photographs screen printed on paper using fourteen various pie fillings.
Image list below. Adjusting the brightness on your screen may help to view some of the more faint prints.
I found a woman’s lifelong collection of hundreds of recipes on index cards. Written in what I came to recognize as the woman’s hand on one of the cards: “From the kitchen of Alice Vail.”
The pies interest me most. Each recipe is a snapshot of an economy, a culture, an idea of what it means to be American. Alice’s collection ranges from Depression era make-do recipes that somehow scrape together dessert from meager pantry ingredients, to easy-breezy recipes of the 1970s that promise a party-ready confection by combining just a few canned and brightly colored products. Captured in this archive are specific tastes — she must have loved apple pie the most — and universal desires to nurture, to celebrate, to impress, to fit in, to relate through food.
Pictured are the fourteen women named Alice Vail listed on ancestry.com. From the birthdates listed, any — or none — of them could be “my” Alice. I made fourteen of Alice’s pie recipes and used the fillings to screen print photographs of each possible Alice, boiling down and straining the fillings to make usable inks.
Alice’s collection of recipes and a genealogy website are vastly different in size, material, and scope, but they preserve in similar, selective ways: choosing for us what, and who, is remembered, and what is lost to time.
1. Install shot of all thirty-two prints.
2. Fourteen selected recipes from Alice’s collection.
3. Alice Vail and recipe for Strawberry Glaze Pie
4. Alice Maude Tyrrell Vail Robison and recipe for Fresh Fruit Pie
5-11. Alice Shepard Vail (printed with Cherry Cream Pie: cream cheese, milk, sour cream, canned cherry pie filling, and instant vanilla pudding)
12. Alice Frances Vail (printed with Lemon, Cherry Chiffon Pie or Pudding: powdered lemon pie filling, unflavored gelatin, lemon rind, water, sugar, eggs, canned cherry pie filling)
13-14. Alice Charlotte Vail Hickson (printed with Butterscotch Pie: brown sugar, lard, cream, egg yolk, milk, flour)
15. Alice Elizabeth Vail (printed with French Apple Pie: sugar, cinnamon, sliced apples, butter, brown sugar, flour)
16. Alice W. Vail (printed with Chocolate Pie: sugar, cocoa, flour, cornstarch, egg yolks, salt, milk)
17-18. Alice Williams Vail (printed with Snowy Blueberry Pie: currant jelly, lemon juice, nutmeg, fresh or frozen blueberries)
19. Alice Vail (printed with Strawberry Glaze Pie: strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, whipped cream)
20-22. Alice M. Vail (printed with Pumpkin Pie: Stokely’s Finest canned pumpkin [substituted with Libby’s], evaporated milk, eggs, brown sugar, water, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves)
23-24. Alice Augusta Snyder Vail (printed with Apricot Cooler: vanilla ice cream, apricot preserves)
25. Alice Hope Vail (printed with Orange Whip Cream Pie: marshmallows, orange juice, lemon juice, whipping cream, grated orange rind)
26. Alice Vail (printed with Zucchini Pie: cooked zucchini, egg, butter, Milnot evaporated milk [substituted with Carnation], sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon)
27. Alice Theresa Nolan Vail (printed with Alice Vail’s Lemonade Creme Pie: frozen canned lemonade, Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, Cool Whip)
28-33. Alice Taylor Wharton Vail (printed with German Sweet Chocolate Pie: Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, butter, evaporated milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, eggs, vanilla)
34-35. Alice Maude Tyrrell Vail Robison (printed with Fresh Fruit Pie: fruit [I used blackberries], flour or quick-cooking tapioca [I used tapioca], lemon juice, lemon rind, granulated sugar, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon)
36. Install shot of all thirty-two prints.