Make art to help out: The anonymous account making us nostalgic for a busy restaurant
Turning to art at the beginning of quarantine during the pandemic, the artist’s practice is bringing nostalgic joy via Instagram.
- Lucy Bourton
- 13 October 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
The guest check, argues anonymous artist Kb, is a great cultural relic. For them its become not just a visual example of nostalgia – of crowded restaurants with mates, overheard conversations, and the same old (sometimes slightly obnoxious) phrases we each throw out – but a canvas on which they paint everyday phrases of dining out, a practice which has brought our team plenty of sentimental joy recently.
Beginning back in March, and publishing their works on Instagram via the moniker Laundry Room Studios, Kb’s art practice began in their laundry room armed with two paint brushes, a pen, a single watercolour palette, 100 sheets of white paper and little else to do due to lockdown. “Nothing fancy,” they explain, “but it was perfect.”
Soon becoming a nightly ritual for Kb – who doesn’t consider themselves an artist (“I have a very ‘normal’ day job, I shop at Trader Joe’s, and I have a cat named Tuna”) – the quarantine period of a few months ago was “the first time in years, I had the ability to slow down,” they explain. “Painting in my laundry room became a nightly ritual. It added a much needed touch of brightness, quite literally, back into my life during the beginning of the pandemic.”
Soon running out of these initial 100 sheets, Kb’s current body of work began on guest checks one evening in May. Borne out of Kb’s nostalgia for dining out, and a deep wonder of when they’d be able to visit their favourite restaurants again, their artworks reminisce the routine speeches we’ve all definitely made at some point.
Whether its sheepishly saying you’ll have a peek at the desert menu when you know fully well what you’re having, hunting out a vegetarian option or beginning an order with “we’re gonna start with”, Kb has got the speech we all recite at restaurants down to a T. “I even missed hearing people talk about how they were vegan or exclusively drank oat milk!” they add. “I hadn’t heard someone ask if they ‘could do the salad instead of the fries’ in months and I missed that!” It turns out the now artist wasn’t alone in these thoughts too, sharing these with a global audience who resonate with the artworks, made next to the washing machine in their Chicago home.
Their ability to distill this exact moment is a talent Kb puts down to a lifetime spent dining out, explaining how, “The guest check itself evokes such a sense of nostalgia in me. Growing up my family and I were regulars at a local diner called Frederick’s. There was rarely a Sunday afternoon during my childhood that I wasn’t enjoying my signature order of a ‘grilled cheese and French fries with chocolate milk,’ reading an Archie comic book, and taking in the sights, smells and characters from our corner booth,” the artist recalls.
At the time it was the late 90s to early 2000s, and with little portable tech stealing away attention, “people would gather at the diner for hours, telling stories between tables, laughing, reading magazines, eating tuna melts, and drinking endless cups of coffee,” they continue. “It sounds funny, but those early years being a regular at Frederick’s really shaped me.”
Kb’s not wrong either, particularly now as the majority of us hunker down back inside again, the memory of a restaurant, diner, cafe, bar or pub, is both painfully and joyfully nostalgic. Even though the artist’s description of their earliest visual memories being “a guest check with a coffee ring stain on it next to a bunch of crumpled napkins, a cup of ice water with a lemon wedge squeezed into it, a few bright pink Sweet’N Low packets, and a glob of ketchup that had somehow missed the plate and landed on the table,” is from a childhood, for us it conjures up sweet memories of just a year ago. “It’s a variation on a theme that, I believe," concludes Kb, "is identifiable no matter where in the world you’re from.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.