My Father, Bob & I - Mashed PotatoesWednesday, December 13, 2006
I had never heard of the term comfort food until my wife Rosemary used it. For her it's mashed potatoes with a fried egg on top. Her mother taught her to chop up raw onion and mix it with the mashed potatoes. It would seem that even the onion makes this old standby a predictable comfort.
Art for me can also be comfort food. When I revisit a city, I rarely want to see new things. This applies to my art-gallery visits. Perhaps it is no different from my boyhood visits to the Buenos Aires Zoo were I wanted to see the lion, the tiger, the zebra as if these were Platonic absolutes. Certain works at the art galleries become old friends. In Madrid, Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez beckons at the Prado. In Paris, I'm a sucker for the Mona Lisa. While at the Metropolitan in New York, I spend an inordinate amount of time examining the details of Nicolas Poussin's very large Rape of the Sabine Women. In Washington, DC's National Gallery, I never get tired of Winslow Homer's Right and Left, two ducks askew in the air, shot by a hunter on a boat below. Closer to home, at the Seattle Art Museum, I always hope my old friend Gold Fish on Shirt , an astounding dye transfer print by photographer Ralph Gibson, will be up on the wall.
This comfort of the familiar is what makes my family Christmas special. The routine begins with the Christmas Eve dinner and my faking, after dinner, to my now grown daughters and my two granddaughters that I am feeling drowsy and that we should open the presents on Christmas Day. The trimming of the tree a week before is pure nostalgia as the ornaments have been in the family for at least 40 years. I must admit, though a more recent routine. An almost worn-out 1979 John Denver & the Muppets Christmas LP is our music of choice.
Coincidentally, my favourite painting from the permanent collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery is a Christmas scene. I last saw Joanne Tod's, 1983, My Father, Bob and I (above with my friend Samuel Frid) in 1996. Since then, the enigma of the title in relation to the trio on the sofa, with the large Christmas wreath behind, has led me to enquire, usually at this time of the year, when the painting will next be on display.
Not too long ago when I called the VAG an irate PR woman shouted at me saying, "You mean that you are asking the VAG to hang a painting on demand?"
While I know that perhaps it would be too much to ask the VAG to hang My Father, Bob and I this Christmas, I shall count on Santa interceding next year with the powers that be.