Artist’s 3D chalk works look good enough to eat

Nate Bara­nowski’s 3D chalk por­traits daz­zle in Howard Street vir­tual fes­ti­val

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF RE­PORTER cproc­tor@sun­ | @ce­proc­tor23

Nate Bara­nowski sat in his Hyde Park apart­ment and picked up a golden yel­low pas­tel pen­cil. The 32-year-old 3D chalk artist shaded in a piece of folde­dover cab­bage, com­plet­ing his ren­di­tion of Sene­gal’s na­tional dish: veg­eta­bles, jollof rice and an en­tire fish — each el­e­ment seem­ing to leap off the pa­per into re­al­ity.

Mean­while, 20 miles north in Rogers Park, Badara “Badou” Di­akhate, 57, chat­ted about the cooking process be­hind the dish Bara­nowski was draw­ing. The fish-an­drice com­bi­na­tion is a best-seller at Badou Sene­galese Cui­sine, Di­akhate’s res­tau­rant on Howard Street.

The artist and restau­ra­teur pair con­nected on­line via In­sta­gram Live for the fourth stop of this sum­mer’s Vir­tual Chalk

Howard Street. Last year, artists, busi­ness own­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered on Howard Street — the di­vider be­tween Evanston and Rogers Park — for Chalk Howard Street, a street art fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing mind-bend­ing 3D chalk scenes. Be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, this year’s fes­ti­val has gone vir­tual, with Bara­nowski creat­ing a 3D ren­di­tion in­spired by dif­fer­ent Howard Street busi­nesses while he in­ter­views shop own­ers.

Over the past few weeks, Bara­nowski has drawn Set­tlers of Catan game pieces from Athena Board Game Cafe, rum punch from Good To Go Ja­maican Cui­sine and a pizza from Salerno’s on Tap, all on Howard Street. An­tique shop Lost Eras marks the next stop on the vir­tual tour on Aug. 14, and, go­ing for­ward, Rogers Park Busi­ness Al­liance plans to con­tinue the se­ries.

Anamor­phic art, the for­mal name for these 3D-look­ing cre­ations, ap­pears dis­torted when look­ing head-on at the piece. But at the proper van­tage point, the art seems to jump out of the can­vas (pic­ture a side­walk mu­ral of a hole that looks like some­one might fall into). Af­ter study­ing fine arts at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Ur­bana-Cham­paign, Bara­nowski was work­ing a de­sign job in Florida when he first saw artists com­plet­ing 3D chalk draw­ings. A year later, his own 3D chalk art ca­reer took off.

Since many of Bara­nowski’s pieces are chalk pas­tels brought to life on a city side­walk, most cre­ations dis­ap­pear within a week of com­ple­tion. Bara­nowski said he doesn’t mind, not­ing that his pur­pose be­hind the art is to give tem­po­rary joy to on­look­ers. He re­calls only a hand­ful of times when a sud­den down­pour com­pletely washed a piece away in the mid­dle of his work, the only time he’s “re­ally sad” about the tem­po­rary na­ture of his art.

Scenes of Dis­ney char­ac­ters, base­ball play­ers and al­li­ga­tors make up Bara­nowski’s port­fo­lio, each piece an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion and per­fect photo op for a so­cial me­dia post.

“I usu­ally say my fa­vorite job is the one I just did or the one I’m do­ing now,” Bara­nowski said. “I love the ex­cite­ment of start­ing a new job.”

At Badou Sene­galese cui­sine, the West African coun­try’s na­tional dish isn’t the only crowd pleaser. Di­akhate’s kitchen makes yassa, a plate where caramelize­d onions are the star; mafe, a peanut but­ter stew; and jollof rice, a sta­ple with a hotly con­tested na­tion of ori­gin, though Di­akhate in­sists on the dish’s Sene­galese roots.

Di­akhate’s culi­nary roots stem back to his child­hood in Sene­gal, spend­ing summers work­ing at his grand­mother’s farm. One day, on their three-mile trek to the farm, his grand­mother pointed out a patch of hyena foot­prints, caus­ing Di­akhate to start shak­ing in fear. The next morn­ing, Di­akhate faked ill­ness to get out of go­ing to the farm, in­stead spend­ing the day help­ing fish­ers

pull their haul from their boats. They gifted Di­akhate with sev­eral fish — some of which he sold to buy condi­ments. He cooked up a “city meal,” in­spired by his mother’s cooking back home, and his fam­ily found the meal so delicious that they didn’t make him go to the farm and risk be­ing eaten by hye­nas any­more, Di­akhate said.

“I did not want to be eaten by hyena,” he said. “That’s how I be­came a chef.”

Di­akhate moved to the states 33 years ago, work­ing as a se­nior editor at North­west­ern Univer­sity’s li­brary for 20 of those years, at which point he de­cided it was time for a ca­reer switch.

He’d con­sid­ered re­turn­ing to Sene­gal and run­ning for pres­i­dent. But when his old­est daugh­ter planted the seed of her fa­ther open­ing a res­tau­rant, Badou Sene­galese Cui­sine was born in 2012.

“Food, as we know, is an ex­pres­sion of the cul­ture,” Di­akhate said. “I’ve used the food to pro­mote Sene­galese and African cul­ture, try to foster peace, aware­ness.”

Since the pan­demic brought the res­tau­rant in­dus­try to a near stand­still in March, main­tain­ing busi­ness has been an up­hill bat­tle, Di­akhate said, es­pe­cially be­cause peo­ple would of­ten hold par­ties and events at his res­tau­rant. Even since re­open­ing up at 25% at the end of June, Di­akhate es­ti­mates he’s only served 50 dine-in cus­tomers, in­stead re­ly­ing on take-out and de­liv­ery or­ders to bring in rev­enue.

It’s for that very rea­son that artist Bara­nowski says Vir­tual Chalk Howard Street is all about spot­light­ing lo­cal busi­ness own­ers and at­tract­ing cus­tomers to busi­nesses strug­gling through the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

“They are the stars of these vir­tual events,” Bara­nowski said. “If peo­ple like the chalk art along the way, to me, it’s a bonus.”


Sene­gal’s na­tional dish at Badou Sene­galese Cui­sine is cap­tured in a 3D chalk art por­trait.


Artist Nate Bara­nowski cre­ates a 3D ver­sion of a Sene­galese na­tional dish (above) us­ing pas­tel pen­cils dur­ing the Vir­tual Chalk Howard Street fes­ti­val at Badou Sene­galese Cui­sine res­tau­rant in Rogers Park.


Chef/owner Badou Di­akhate of Badou Sene­galese Cui­sine, is pho­tographed at his Rogers Park res­tau­rant.


TOP ROW (from left): Gin­ger pineap­ple drink, yassa with chicken, Sene­galese na­tional fish dish, and mafe. ABOVE (from left): stuffed chicken balls, plan­tains and jerk chicken.

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