Growing up with a family in the restaurant business teaches you a thing or two about foods. But for Rainy Fu — a Singaporean artist based in Bushwick — those experiences were as much about observation and art as they were about food and taste. Rainy would spend weekends with her family preparing ingredients, peeling shrimp, and serving tables while also hand painting watercolor meals as a way of recording the culture and joy captured in food. What blossomed was a deep understanding of the sentimental value of culinary creations.
Now, Rainy is using this craft to start Cityfuuds, her series that homages New York dishes. Her work is currently featured at Greenpoint coffee shop Espresso Paloma (117 Meserole Avenue). Here, the artist discusses the genesis for her idea and how the plight of restaurants amid COVID empowered her to act.
How has Citfuuds been going and what was the impetus for the new project?
Rainy Fu: I just launched! It’s a crazy whirlwind journey; one week I have no logo but a ton of paintings, and the next I have Cityfuuds going on. I started during a depressing season in winter 2020 as a form of art therapy — the pandemic was making me look inwards, seeing what I truly valued and what will really make me happy. Turns out helping others was one! I was affected by the restaurants struggling during COVID and wanted to do more to help out; my initial goal was to paint and donate all proceeds to charity like FoodBank4NYC, NYC COVID relief. At the end of 2020, I’ve raised more than $3,000 with my paintings and I just keep going!
The idea of helping the community was what got me back to living happily again. It has been an overwhelming outpour of support from friends, family, and people who came forward to show their support on Food Culture of NYC.
How did you connect with Espresso Paloma?
It was from another like-minded illustrator, Jen Scribbles. We met up one day through Instagram and instantly hit it off. We were exchanging ideas and just shared a deep passion for New York, the New Yorkers who stay put, and the restaurants struggling during COVID. From Jen, I got to meet Reuben, the owner of Espresso Paloma, where he features local artists per month with his cafe space. We met and he’s such an amazing human being who is so passionate about the coffee business and bringing up the art scene of NYC. I live in Bushwick, where I live and breathe off the creativity energy and artistic side of things.
What excites you about giving an artistic life to famous New York foods? And what mediums are you employing?
It was that food reminded me of love and warmth, painting these were extremely therapeutic for me. Through multiple generations and times and times again, people gather through food sharing, especially in a household like my family of food business parents. I wanted to bring this warmth and joy through an artistic lens, a painting where a buyer gets it for their space, transforms them back to the times where they had their grandma’s dish, their time in NYC with friends getting a ‘za slice, their times exploring NYC for the first time in Katz Deli.
Every experience is highlighted, tuned up on vibrancy in watercolor and frozen in time by CityFuuds paintings. In addition, what kept me excited was the research on every quintessential food I’ve painted, they provide that extra information/fun fact that I would not have known about. They are like hidden Easter eggs written in tiny words at the bottom of each print. It brings out the nostalgia as a kid in me, where I chuckled at these fun facts that transform me to where I was serving tables at seven years old. Some are truly relatable to my parents’ street food stall. Every legendary NYC food has such an incredible story behind their humble founder.
Where’s the best place (online and IRL) for folks to find your work?
You can find me at @cityfuuds on IG or my personal account @rainyfu_. My work is up in Espresso Paloma at the moment: grab a Spanish tortilla and enjoy some food arts!
We love to hear that! Any upcoming pieces you can discuss?
I have some commissioned food paintings, like Carbone’s spicy rigatoni and Peter Luger’s steak in progress. I also have a full-time job in the music industry, and I’m in the works to mix and mashup some interesting food and culture elements next. It’s going to be really exciting for me jumping on upcoming pieces about that. I want my works to be fun to look at, and relevant if you know the backstory of each. Also, in conjunction with the Asian Heritage month in May, I’m also working with a local designer on a signed, limited 20 pieces of Asian food with love. These proceeds go towards The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund to bring awareness to #stopasianhate.