In Meringue Mix, 1999, Thiebaud pushes his subjects up to the front of the picture plane, and aligns them precisely at equal distance from each other. In this way, he isolates his subjects, and formalizes their shapes and forms into both a pattern and a grouping. This formal grid-like placement brings Mondrian to mind, while the elegant grouping of like objects on a neutral ground reminds us of the quietude of a Morandi still life. Furthermore, the figurative quality of each little pie occupying its own space in the composition brings to mind the isolated diners in a Hopper painting.
The imagery of food that Thiebaud has returned to over decades has a stirring, poetic resonance. The compositions are not derived from set-ups of food in his studio, but rather they are recalled from childhood memories. "Most of the objects are fragments of actual experience. For instance, I would really think of the bakery counter, of the way the counter was lit, where the pies were placed, but I wanted just a piece of the experience. From when I worked in restaurants, I can remember seeing rows of pies, or a tin of pie with one piece out of it and one pie sitting beside it. Those little vedute in fragmented circumstances were always poetic to me" (Wayne Thiebaud quoted in S. Nash, Unbalancing Acts: Wayne Thiebaud Reconsidered, San Francisco, 2000, p. 18).
It is significant that Thiebaud only paints prepared foods. Pies, cakes, deli delights, ice cream cones and candy - food that is hand made, and like a work of art is skillfully prepared: ingredients gathered, a recipe followed, the final product a sculpted, unique creation. In this way, Thiebaud pays homage to the act of painting itself.
"Thiebaud's art in its Zenlike insistence that we empty our minds and give a lemon, a bird, a cake its full inspection as a thing, is closer to a koan than a crack, and demands time. The Pop resonance of his subjects is apparent, but they come at us slowed down and chastened with a host of ambivalent feelings - nostalgic, satiric, elegiac, longing, inquiring - attached, so that our experience ends calmed down and contemplative: enlightened" (Adam Gopnik, An American Painter, San Francisco, 2000, p. 56).