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Gina Canter    

Gina Canter

BY MEADOWLARK MONAGHAN

This week we are welcoming Gina Canter. Gina is an artist, author, and close friend of the brands. We have worked with her to create artwork of our Pop-Up's. Recently, she published her first book Stories on Rye, a collection of memories from her family's restaurant (Canter's Restaurant, Bakery, Deli and Bar) since 1931.

HEY GINA! TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR STORY.

Hello! I’m Gina, I am 25 years-old, and I was born and raised in LA and I studied Art and Design and the University of Michigan. Since graduating I have been creating a body of acrylic portraits. In 2018, I was commissioned to create a 10-piece collection for a large enterprise client which was featured at the Soho House Miami at Art Basel 2018. I also had the opportunity to live paint at the event! This past September I published my first book: Stories on Rye – I had been working on it for several years. I recently gave notice to my job of 3 years in to focus on my art career. I am currently working on a collection of ten portraits of Frida Kahlo. 

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE ART WORLD?

My Mom put me in art classes at a really young age. I used to take private classes from a Russian Mother in her home when I was Seven. When I was 14, I used to photograph my brothers band at the Whiskey a Go Go. In high school, I took figure drawing and painting at Otis and The Chicago Institute of Art.

TELL US ABOUT STORIES ON RYE!

Stories on Rye is a collection of more than 100 memories shared at Canter’s Deli since 1931. Like the Canter’s booths that have welcomed movie stars and presidents alongside everyday people, the book contains a vast range of memories. Over the span of a few years, my brother and I collected almost 5,000 stories. I then illustrated each story with a line drawing. Hilarious, touching and perhaps a little magical, each story is a testament to the human spirit and to a LA historical landmark that shares its legacy with each of its patrons.

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CANTER'S TO YOU?

Haha, Canter’s is my family’s restaurant. My last name is Canter! I am 4th generation, and I spent my life growing up in the deli. My Grandpa worked there for over 60 years and my Dad dropped out of school to take it over from my Grandpa. Los Angeles was a far different place with my great Grandfather, Ben Canter who opened Canter’s in 1931. Hollywood was just getting started and a cute little mouse named Mickey was becoming a star. What’s interesting is that whether it’s a story from the 30’s or a story from 2000's, each story shared a similar connection. Voices from the past join the present, to demonstrate that nostalgia can be very much alike. As I listened to my family’s history through other people’s memories, I realized that the Canter’s story was so much bigger than my own story. It comprised of decades of memories and countless people from all walks of life.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ILLUSTRATION AND STORY FROM THE BOOK?

I really like the way the outside drawings of the building came out. Actually it’s these drawings that led me to work with Madhappy. I’m the artist behind the storefront drawings of the different pop-up Madhappy locations. I also like the drawings of people. I was able to contact a lot of people whose stories were chosen for a picture. I was hoping my drawings would tell a story in itself. Our opening story is a 99 year-old holocaust survivor named Charles. I wanted people to read his touching story and understand his connection between a Jewish Deli and his chilling past through his words and my art. 

I CONSIDER ART SUCH A POWERFUL FORM OF COPING - WHETHER WE ARE STRESSED, BURNT OUT, OR CAN'T QUITE PROCESS THROUGH OUR EMOTIONS. HAVE YOU HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE?

The beginning stages of my drawings and paintings look crazy. Specifically with painting, you would be really surprised to see my before and after. I actually find that the process can be, at times, stressful. It doesn’t look like you want it to look right away. I really have to work at it and constantly correct and alter areas. When a stressful beginning ends with a really good outcome it’s worth it. It’s a really good feeling.

YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU EXPERIENCE SOME ANXIETY AS WELL. HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ANXIETY BEEN? DO YOU SEE MENTAL HEALTH INFLUENCING YOUR ART IN ANYWAY?

I started to feel anxious at seven years old. It’s weird to think a child could feel this way. I’ve struggled with it through my whole life but it wasn’t until college that I really was able to understand it. They don’t teach you about anxiety in school. I didn’t even know the physical feelings I was experiencing was anxiety. It was so often and so normal to me. I think understanding why my brain works this way was extremely helpful for me. I definitely find art to be a distraction from it. I can get lost in what I’m working on for a few hours and breathe differently. 

SPEED ROUND

BEST HABITS YOU’VE IMPLEMENTED FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?

Getting a good night sleep sometimes sets the reset button. Of course, there are lots of nights I go to sleep anxious and still wake up anxious, but I've found that I need lots of sleep to function in a healthy way.

IF YOU HAD A BILLBOARD THAT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD COULD READ, WHAT WOULD IT SAY?

If you were waiting for a sign, this is it.

FAVORITE RECENT BOOK OR PODCAST?

Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith

WHO WOULD HEADLINE AT YOUR MUSIC FESTIVAL?

Sam Hunt and Eminem.

WHAT’S THE LAST MEAL YOU COOKED AT HOME?

Pasta.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU SAID YES TO?

I was offered a spot in Elly Smallwood's painting workshop in Madrid. I can't wait!

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU SAID NO TO?

I am trying to practice saying no a lot more. I tend to overcommit a lot. I get myself in unhealthy situations because I want to be helpful even if it's not the best thing for my time or my mental health. I recently declined a freelance work opportunity that I knew was not for me, even though I was capable of doing it.