Liz McCombs works in Denver's self-proclaimed "sexiest bakery," decorating outrageous and often erotic cakes. She started there 2 ½ years ago after completing culinary school at Pikes Peak Community College.
Before that, however, McCombs received a degree in fine art from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. And before that, she studied genetic research at Colorado College.
"My two loves have always been biology-anatomy and art," says the 28-year-old. Not exactly a straightforward profile of an artist. McCombs creates in cake and fondant, as well as in clay, ceramic and strange objects she finds, sometimes off the ground. Her non-edible efforts at Terra Verde comprise her first solo art exhibit, Things Left Unsaid, showing July 3 through 29.
Unsaid marks the second backroom art show hosted by the shop; the first, a collection of dainty assemblage works by Holly Hinkle, closed at June's end. (The chic clothing store says it has plans to host a few more shows through the summer, including a pottery exhibit by Mark Wong.)
McCombs' myriad studies don't escape her quaintly creepy artwork. Detailed ceramic replicas of hearts, hands, ears and fingers occupy many of her pieces, as do glass eyes. But between biology classes and hootchie cakes, anything more mainstream would be a disappointment. Her successful integration of such odd relics in her art results in a subtly cheerful and outright quirky mix of macabre and cute.
Fittingly, the circus inspires McCombs, who frequently samples harlequin patterns and primary color palettes.
The simple trappings of her imagined circus characters appeals to McCombs: "Being able to perform and entertain using nothing but your self is so opposite from myself that it's always been really fascinating to me," she says.
McCombs' slumbering imagination provides another wealth of influence. "Most of the things I have made have come from dreams," she says. For example, "Lepidoptera Dentis," viewable on her Web site, features a pile of false teeth in a compartment below a box filled with butterflies, themselves winged molars, lighting on a tree.
For Unsaid, McCombs prepared 20 new sculptures and jewelry: pocket-sized versions of her artwork.
"I've always felt that art is one of those things that should make you want to touch it and hold it and it should have some weight," she says, "I think that's partly why I ended up getting into jewelry ... the jewelry I make are little sculptures you can wear so you can always hold them."
McCombs welcomes handling her artwork, even the vignettes.
"It's a real shame, [when] the public gets to see art and it's 'no touching.'"
Not even the dangers of slippery fingers faze her: "If something breaks, then it was meant to be that way ... we can work with that."