Tuesday, October 10

Henry's Graduation Cake oil on canvas 9 x 12 inches

This cake, from my son Henry's elementary school graduation ceremony was delicious. Nobody could believe it was from a local supermarket. They must have run out of lard at the central kitchen that day, and substituted butter! Very odd.

Of course, to everyone's amusement I asked for another slice to bring home and paint. I think there were some comments like, "Oh yeah, right. You are going to paint it, uh-huh!" But the truth is, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I don't spurn all sweets, and I love chocolate, but my constantly repressed shameful cravings are not for pints of ice-cream but for bags of potato chips and their ilk.

And so why do I want to paint cakes and doughnuts? Believe it or not, the answer is somewhat complex. My current show at Artists' House Gallery, is entitled in my mind "The Cake Frenzy". I became obsessed with painting such event cakes, as well as the usual run of doughnuts and other treats. But why, if it is not a celebration merely of their taste? Trying to explain my obsession to myself, I jotted down some notes, so take a look if you are interested:

Event cakes are to me like secular communion wafers. The event itself is usually a celebration of some momentous step in an individual’s life: a birthday, wedding, anniversary or graduation. The people present at the event gather around the cake, candles are often lit and ceremoniously blown out, the people may sing, applaud, make wishes and toasts and then the cake is ritually sliced up and everyone partakes communally. In this way, as holy wafers or blessed bread in a religious ceremony, the cake serves as a locus or focal point for the group nature of the life ceremony.

Baked goods and treats also represent the sweetness of life, in both their taste and their form and what they say about our culture. Aesthetically, they are purely beautiful, designed to delight with appealing colors and enticing textures. On another level the doughnut’s ring shape brings to mind that great metaphysical poem "I saw eternity the other night, like a great ring of pure and endless light..." And the very existence of such confections is proof that we live in a culture of abundance. People in starving communities do not have the luxury of dropping by the local Dunkin' Doughnuts for the occasional half dozen.

So, although this subject matter may seem light and fluffy, it can call forth thoughts on weightier topics. William Blake wrote about being able to see a world in a grain of sand, and this rings true to me. Although in my case I may be looking at a slice of cake, a doughnut or a starlight mint.

Well, the starlight mints. There is a whole other tale.

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