Previous Shows: 2015: The Player's Dinner: Essay

The Player’s Dinner  

The Dinner begins with a toast and many grateful smiles. I know all my guests either very well personally or through viewing their work over the years. There are no assigned seats and my guests find their place at the table organically – as I prefer.  

David Humphrey sits across from Joshua Bienko and they dive right into a debate of mascots, painting, and sports. The question is, if the orange tiger in Humphrey’s painting, Napping (2006) would be a better mascot for the dreadful New York Knicks than Joshua Bienko’s anxiety ridden drummer boy in his painting, ‘Hit it from the side, 23’ (2015).  

These two are intense yet considerate with their comments to each other. Both Humphrey and Bienko are leaning back in their chairs with arms waving out of excitement and authority as they scuffle amongst words, philosophy and witty banter. This won’t be ‘settled’ tonight – and it’s just the way they prefer – the story thickens as they press on.  

Katherine Bradford and Caroline Chandler sit across from each other and discuss uvulas and superheroes. Bradford is shy about her green monster painting but the group agrees – it’s deserving of attention and strange enough to attend this party (Uvula Painting 2014). Rebecca Morgan, wearing bright red lipstick and a brown scarf exclaims that a Uvula is a wildly interesting thing to make a painting of and in saying so makes Katherine smile ear to ear.  

Rebecca Morgan has no fear of making bold and uncomfortable images and both Bradford and Chandler admire this. She is curious about the ceramic piece Morgan has brought to the table (Shock Jug, 2014). Rebecca explains it is from 2014, made in Omaha, Nebraska and there are hundreds more in the making - it has a whole family. She slides it towards the center of the table and lets everyone know that Shock Jug is filled with bourbon. The table agrees it is pretty much the best ceramic ‘flask’ anyone’s ever seen.  

Jacqueline Cedar is shy at first and politely pours some wine for Caroline Chandler who is fervently crocheting portraits of batman and robin (Studio visit 2015). Cedar spends Time in Thinking (2015) and a bit of anxiety creeps in, as dinner parties can be stressful. She wonders where the knives are kept so she can offer help cutting the roast in the middle of the table.  

Matt Bollinger and Vicki Sher sit at the head of the table. They smile and observe, slowly trying to make sense of the group’s dynamic. Vicki Sher graciously brings flowers to the dinner table (Always Bring Flowers-2014) and Jacqueline Cedar helps her cut off the stems for the centerpiece. Bollinger was coming straight From the Bookstore, (2014) and forgot to bring a dish to contribute. He did however arrive with some exciting new book acquisitions. Phillip Guston - A new Alphabet and Pierre Bonnard - The Colour of Daily Life were in a clear bag and soon opened on the table sparking a conversation between new friends.  

At the opposite end of the table, Humphrey and Bienko are still scrimmaging over painting and mascots. Caroline Chandler over hears and chimes in to declare he isn’t going to put any of the New York Knicks on his next crocheted ‘dream team’ series! Unless, of course they bring back Walt Frazier from the 1970’s NBA Finals.  

Lauren Whearty shifts anxiously in her seat and take a sip of wine. She smiles at the crew gathered here and musters up the courage to ask a new person, Andy Cross an awkward first question…is his beard itchy?  

Andy grins and laughs with Lauren as they both acknowledge what a strange initial question that is. Lauren explains that she has been thinking about ideas for paintings and an itchy beard seemed like quite the challenge to make as a female. Andy agrees it is both a challenge to manage and a challenge to paint (Ben, 2015).  

Austin Furtak Cole sits right next to Andy and Lauren as they discuss beards and how to paint this strange itchy feeling. Austin’s insatiable laugh makes everyone feel at ease throughout the evening. Austin has been on the hunt lately for new characters for his paintings (Looking for a new alphabet, 2015). He is relieved to know others hunt for imagery the same way - through life experiences, memories and like Bonnard, the everyday.  

Andy Cross loves a good painting conversation more than anyone but multi-tasks while talking as he mixes gold, silver, and purple hues for the portrait of me - the host (Catherine, 2015). I am sitting quietly and enjoying all of my friends becoming friends themselves.  

Summer Wheat is new to me – I’ve only seen her work online and a few times in person. I thought she would be a wonderful guest tonight and was thrilled she accepted the invite. Summer shows her consideration as she meanders towards the kitchen asking if she can help with the dishes. (Dirty Dishes 2015). I insist she is my guest and shouldn’t worry about cleaning.  

She obliges and sits down next to Paul Gagner who has contributed a delicious jambalaya for the dinner party. Summer asks Paul what kind of paintings he has been making lately. As Paul serves copious portions of jambalaya for his new friends, he very confidently says that finger painting has seemed to make the most sense lately (Finger Painting at the Museum, 2015). Summer smiles and nods her head in approval – she gets it. After all, she has been constructing sculptures and making paintings and installations with seemingly wreck-less abandon for years – showing no hierarchy of material or technique.  

The table continues in conversation for hours, indulging in food, wine and laughs. Chairs shift around the table like a game and everyone is at ease making new friends. I am pleased with how the evening has gone and let my guests know that I’d love their company again. Katherine Bradford graciously offers to host the next dinner party. In a way I am relieved – but more than anything, thankful to be in such good company.  

Bienko and Humphrey never settled their debate; Andy Cross finished his portrait and Vicki Sher leaves her flowers for me to keep. The conversations tonight, like a good painting will continue in my memory for a long time. Until the next studio visit or dinner party continues it for me – and that’s just the way I’d like it to be.  

-Catherine Haggarty