Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game Supper















The Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department Annual Wild Game Supper is a major community ritual. Traditionally held the first Saturday of hunting season it is an important fund-raiser for the fire department, frequently drawing over 300 people. Everyone - I mean everyone - participates. A couple of weeks ahead of the Great Event you get a card in the mail with your cooking assignment and a pointed reference to a number to call in case of fire (as far as I know this is not meant as a reflection on anyone's cooking skills...). My first year in town I drew "chopped salad". Sigh. Fourteen years later I have clawed my way up the culinary ladder and am now trusted to contribute "two pies".

The line forms early and stretches halfway to the church. Although Game Supper night usually coincides with the first bitter cold of the year, the mood is festive. People tend to come in groups; the savvy ones tote bottles of red wine and a corkscrew. Inside the hall you see an astonishing sight: hunters, hippies, people who grew up in Pawlet and people who grew up on the east side of Manhattan all crowding together as the disparate groups that make up the Pawlet community come together to share a feast.

That was the inspiration - but how to gather enough notes to make a painting in the short window of opportunity. I like to work from life but no one could sketch fast enough to take everything in - and I had students coming for a weekend workshop scheduled months before. Workshops generally last until 5:00; Game Supper starts at 4:30. Rescue arrived in the form of my friend George Bouret, a wonderful photographer who runs the PAC gallery in town. A week or so earlier he had volunteered to help with the Art of Action project saying that he and fellow photographer Karin DiChiara wanted to do something purposeful with their photography. They thought my Art of Action project might be a place their work could be of service to the community (!). Wow. I told them I needed the Game Supper photographed from A to Z and they cheerfully agreed to do so. The next step was to talk to the fire chief, explain my project, and ask if it would be alright for my photographers to be in their way documenting the supper (I'm feeling like a big movie producer at this point). We had a great conversation. I learned a lot about the department and its challenges and told him I am planning to be their shadow for the next few months...that I may be needing models...

Game Supper night I grabbed my sketch pad as soon as the last student was out the door and zoomed to the fire hall. There I found George and Karin hard at work and immediately joined them, sketching furiously and pointing out interesting faces for them to snap. At the end of the night we collapsed in front of heaping plates of game supper fare, but the haul was worth it: 473 invaluable photographs and four precious pages of sketches.



4 comments:

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

Wow! Great gesture in those drawings. Happy Thanksgiving.

Clair said...

I have loved sketchbooks more than almost any other output by painters. I think, if my old brain remembers correctly, the epiphany occurred when I first saw pages from Da Vinci's and Michelangelo's sketchbooks. There was something so immediate about them, so personal.

Dana Wigdor said...

Beautiful drawings! I'm really enjoying how your project is progressing...
All the best, Dana

jeff f said...

The drawings are looking good.
Wow you have a lot of photos!...

A game supper, Rembrandt's slaughtered OX.

I'm looking forward to the oil sketches and the final painting.

Oh and good luck with the grant!