Harley Langberg is making his Fashion Week debut with designs that honor six iconic figures from the fashion world. Those viewing his work will get an eyeful of spaghetti, eggplant and Swiss cheese, not runways, fashion models and fabrics.
Langberg, 26, works in the food industry by trade, but in his spare time he is a food artist who has learned to manipulate foods to create complex works of art for which he is becoming known. During Fashion Week, which runs through Thursday, he will display photographs of his designs on plates that will be shown on the website of the company that commissioned his work and on Instagram and his own personal website (harleysfoodart.com).
Besides the white ceramic dinner plate, his canvas of choice is an Oreo cookie, and the likenesses he re-creates from photographs have ranged from Picasso abstracts to Grant Wood's "American Gothic" to cookie portraits of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson, revolutionary Che Guevara, President Abraham Lincoln and "Star Wars" characters.
He replicated Picasso's "Portrait of Dora Maar" using mangoes for skin color; eggplant for hair and eyebrows; one side of a nectarine for a cheek; and red peppers for the lips and fingernails. A picture of it adorns Langberg's business card.
"That's my favorite piece, because I think I did a good job," he said. "It gets good feedback."
As a tribute to comedian Robin Williams, who died in August, Langberg whipped up a "Mrs. Doubtfire" creation based on the 1993 film of the same name.
Langberg, who splits his time between Bridgehampton and Manhattan, has created more than 50 pieces of food art since taking up the hobby last year. His curiosity was sparked when he went food shopping at Chelsea Market in 2013.
"An artist had food art all over the market," Langberg recalled. "I was really inspired. It made me think about what I could do."
The kindest cuts of all
Langberg's learning curve wasn't steep. He said he has always had an interest in fashion, food, style, art and color. He was a merchandiser for the Calvin Klein company from 2010 to 2012. His skill with a knife was honed during a culinary course in high school and as a pastry chef one summer in Philadelphia.
"All these pieces have to do with cutting well: strips, curves, cubes," he said.
Langberg said he usually makes two creations a week. He uses a toothpick to maneuver small bits of food into position; for larger pieces he uses his finger. The shopping list depends on the creation. Ingredients such as limes, apples, potatoes and pasta can cost $10 to $20, Langberg said.
Each design usually takes 20 minutes to complete, but some can take 24 hours, he added. The creations are perishable and last only about eight hours, so Langberg photographs them and posts them on his website or on Instagram.
He said he never gets impressed with his work, except for the Oreo cookie creations. Langberg takes pride in them because he said they are the hardest to create -- the creme is difficult to work with and the cookie is, well, small.
Langberg does have a palate for the colorful palette of foods -- including the yogurt, candy and chocolate -- used for his creations, so when he's done and has photographed what he's made, he usually eats them.
But sometimes the food combinations don't make for a good meal.
"Like cotton candy and turnip," Langberg said. "Sometimes I have to throw it away."
More commissioned work
Though Langberg continues to work at CMS Technology, where he is director of sales for Produce Shield, a product that preserves the shelf-life of produce, he is doing more commissioned art, which has included parties and other events, and said he is considering doing food art demonstrations.
Langberg hasn't sold photos of his works yet, but he said people have expressed an interest in buying them and he would, on request, make framed, limited editions that would sell for $200 to $400.
"A lot of people are doing food art, but I don't know a lot of people doing famous people or as intricately as I am doing it," he said. "I have developed my own style. I'm hoping one day people will see my work and say, 'That's a Harley Langberg piece.' "
Though he won't reveal the name of the company that commissioned him for the Fashion Week project or the icons his food art will feature, Langberg said they are all people he respects and admires.
Early favorable responses to his work from friends on Facebook have helped encourage him to this point and also serve a broader purpose.
"By creating beautiful images using many different ingredients from around the world, I am not only creating art, I am also trying to promote the beauty and diversity of all of the various fruits and vegetables in the world in hopes of encouraging people to try new things," Langberg said. "My goal is to share my work with as many people as possible and bring a little culture, a little fun and a little joy into everyday life."