My old friend Peter lives in Mexico most of the time now, but when he came back before Thanksgiving, the two of us headed up to Convent, Louisiana so I could photograph the Oaks of St. Joseph that line a magical sweep of the Mississippi River’s front across River Road from the Manresa Retreat House. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough sun, but the fog that greeted us was unexpected and perhaps even better. This first painting ended up being the last canvas I painted in 2017. For me, painting is therapy and much of 2017 had been a stressful time with my “day job” filled with conflict and difficult choices. The somber yet soothing composition reflected both of these realities.
I didn’t return to this subject matter for six months. I was speaking at a fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance “Welcome Table” and was around a bunch of well-known chefs and food people like Jeremiah Tower, Jeremy Lee, the executive chef at Soho’s Quo Vadis, and the incomparable food historian and writer Jessica Harris. I was deeply humbled to be in the same room and on the same program with these folks. This might all be name dropping, but it was also the morning we all learned about the death of Anthony Bourdain. The shock that news of a person’s death brings is like the mysterious haze that fog lends to a morning, and it was on the faces of those gathered. I know the Gospels speak of the sun rising upon the Resurrection, yet I somehow imaging John the Disciple running through a foggy morning, feet wet with dew, towards to tomb of Jesus. Nevermind how unlikely that would be in arid Palestine. Somehow I feel like the spirits are closer at hand in such a setting, so that night I began this second canvas as a reflection on the juxtaposition of loss and calm that fog inspires in me.
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