Painting With Your Gut
Did you know that a bowl of warm, starchy, vegetable soup paired with brown bread is the perfect recipe to bring forty American exchange students and the small town of Ballyvaughan, Ireland together? The dense bread is slathered with fresh butter and fits the chilled, hazy, greenscape. When served with a pint it can bring the color back to your cheeks. The soup should be eaten with a story of faeries told with accents so thick you fear you'll miss a detail. I relate the scene in a painting, my brush quickly jotting down the ingredients of my memory.
Later, I have graduated, and I eat a bowl of oatmeal alone at my dining room table. Its glossy surface is a black hole around my floral ceramic dish. As I sit in solitude I reflect on long nights at the Irish pub through sketches of memories spent slurping eggs and tomato slathered beans -- a traditional Irish breakfast -- eaten with a large group of new friends. Recently, I attended an artists’ residency in Wisconsin, and I never ate alone. I woke up early every morning to sketch the chicken coup and wait for others to rise and yawn with me over cups of hot coffee and yogurt.
Did you know bananas pair well with a scoop of peanut butter and homemade granola on top? In Wisconsin the only time everyone was required to gather was dinner. Dishes prepared lovingly by chefs and assistants-- who soon would be friends, represented all types of global cuisine. Polish dumplings filled with caramelized apples and radishes chilled in herbaceous butter eased our anxieties as we sat with strangers. Russ, Eileen, and I first met over slabs of naan that aided in polishing off bowls of curried lentils. Russ told me he worked in an office back in Chicago, though his sunglasses and bandana wrapped around his neck hardly fit the image. Later, I made a painting of Eileen, a memory of us picking wildflowers amongst corn fields that became centerpieces for our supper.
In moments like these I have found the intimacy and sociability that inspire me to create. Moments that make me nostalgic for the present, a yearning for time to last forever. My first Thanksgiving in Baltimore, we fashioned a table cloth out of an old floral bedsheet and placed nice cheeses on handmade ceramic bowls. There was tofu with vegan gravy, gluten-free biscuits, and my favorite -- Anna's homemade cranberry sauce. We sat together for hours, working on bottles of sparkling and red wine. Friends, old and new, passed in and out of the meal as they pleased. I sat back to digest and sipped out of a cup a friend made, observing the scene in front of me. How beautiful the meal looked on the dining room table collaged with bisk-stained dishes, pools of red, juicy berries, and floral watercolor stained cloth. This! This is a moment I wish to keep forever. I make a quick sketch of the landscape.