Andrew and Suzy Eschelbacher on the creative intersection of food, fashion, and art
Styled by Sarah Benge
Hair and Makeup by Lush Blow Dry Bar
Photographed at the Portland Museum of Art’s Winslow Homer Studio
As it turns out, celebrated nineteenth- century painter Winslow Homer was quite the dapper dresser. While he spent the latter part of his life at his Prouts Neck studio working in relative isolation and austerity, Homer did have his indulgences, namely food, drink, and, it has been said, a wardrobe full of Brooks Brothers suits.
Now there’s a new sartorialist in town—or at the least, a fellow enthusiast of both
art and fine menswear. Previously having taught as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute—a place where he wore a uniform to work everyday—Portland Museum of Art’s assistant curator of European art Andrew Eschelbacher is enjoying his newfound fashion freedom. “So much of what you wear is how you present yourself,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed the ability to be myself a little bit more.”
As for Homer’s fondness for food and drink, that’s where Andrew’s wife, Suzy, steps in. Armed with a PhD in Greek art and archeology, she’s been a student advisor at University of Southern Maine for the past academic year, but a personal passion has always been the culinary arts. To further that interest, she’s a part-time server at Cara Stadler’s Bao Bao Dumpling House and recently went from writing her dissertation to writing a food blog. “I’m used to describing objects visually, so it came naturally,” she says about her site, EatcentricMe.com, which covers everything from restaurant meals at the city’s top destinations to recipes for the at-home cook. “I write about things that inspire me to either change my own way of cooking or how I think about food.” Acknowledging the link between visual culture and writing, she says comfort is key when it comes to her personal style— though she’s ditched the sweatshirts that ruled student life in favor of pieces that are decidedly more sophisticated.
Andrew is also interested in the juncture of art and food. Case in point: as part of his interview at the PMA, he gave a 45-minute lecture on the representation of famine and market in late nineteenth-century Paris that discussed how food is a representation of culture—and secured himself the job. In his new role, he supervises the collection of European paintings and sculpture, which means doing everything from giving tours to helping oversee traveling exhibitions to writing up text for an artwork’s object label.
“The museum has a really important role to play,” he says. “It’s a place that’s very much about people. It’s a place where we display art, and we produce exhibitions, and we do great scholarship, but if there aren’t people in the museum then what are we doing it for?” He explains that Homer’s studio helps answer this question by providing an engaging excursion that immerses visitors within an important environment in American art history. “You step out onto the porch—what Homer called his piazza— and you see the way that the light hits the water,” he says. “It captures what Homer’s experience was seeing that. It’s this place where painting becomes more than just objects hanging on the wall.”