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By Pam Burke 

When good art tries to go bad


March 28, 2014

I am here to say that I suffer for my art, not quite the cut-off-my-own-ear suffering of Vincent van Gogh, but I suffer nonetheless.

Sure, like many artistic sufferers, I brought on some of the troubles myself. I had waited until I had 10 days to do work I could've gotten done in a leisurely two months, but I had a plan, an elegant plan for completion of said duties by said deadline.

And, like all fool-proof plans, it had underestimated the fool.

On the evening of Day Two it dawned on me that my cooking article needed photos. In order to get food photos, I had to actually buy the food, prepare the food and cook the food — and the last two required good weather: to cook the barbecue recipe outdoors and to have the good natural light to photograph said food.

All of this could only be done while the gods of kitchen mayhem were preoccupied elsewhere.

The morning of Day Three dawned with me stooped and limping in agony after wrenching my back — not the full monkey-allen-pipe-spanner-end wrench kind of catastrophe, but I'd rate it a monkey-spanner-pipe wrench at least.

I heroically persevered at the store, suffering in silence, all artist’s hysterics left in the car. Woe was me.

I suffered through cutting up meat and vegetables and preparing marinade for teriyaki kabobs — at the correct time of day for the photos, whether I felt like lying down with an icepack or not. I felt like it, trust me. Suffer, suffer, suffer.

After 24 hours of marinating, Day Four brought wind — the arch enemy of barbecues everywhere and a favorite tool of the pesky kitchen mayhem gods. I pushed on, persevered, suffered through and made my master grillman battle the forces of nature while I set about preparing a side dish of pasta and transforming the kitchen into a food photography studio with exquisitely filtered light.

I limped myself outside like Quasimodo to take a brightly sunlit photo of the grilling kabobs, not part of the artsy vision I had, but you never know what photos you’ll need.

The grillman followed me into the house and looked with distress at the water that had yet to boil. “We don’t have time for that! The kabobs are pretty much done!” he said with an unnatural, hunger-fueled passion that, well, added to my suffering.

I buckled. No pasta for the photoshoot. Don't judge me, I was suffering.

I lieu of cutting off someones ear, I shut off the water and changed the vision of my masterpiece.

It would be OK, all ears would survive.

Then came the next clash of artistic differences when the grillman thought he had to wait for me to take the photos. I ushered him out of the kitchen/photography studio with a plate full of food so he could practice the gratifying art of eating and leave me to make a minimalist artistic statement with two kabobs on a plate — the only garnish being the plate’s delicate Asian design painted around the rim.

Later, I downloaded and touched up the photos, suffering through sitting at the computer to make beautiful art — suffering level high, but ears still intact. I was proud of the vision I had brought to life despite the obstacles.

I showed off the photos to the grillman, giving the kabobs-on-a-plate photo an added ta-daaa flourish to my voice.

His response was: “Yeah, it’s OK. It doesn’t wow me, but it’s nice enough.”

“What?!” I said, ears in danger of being lopped off.

“It just seems kind of plain to have only two kabobs on the plate.”

“Ya think?” Well, someones ears might get lopped off.

“Yeah, sorry, I just think it should have something on the plate besides just the kabobs.”

“Like pasta?”

“Oh,” he said, saving his own ears from certain destruction.

So after all the back wrenching, shopping, cooking, photographing, sitting-too-longing, not-killing-or-maiming and artistic suffering, you can imagine my distress when the page layout came back with only the hastily snapped photo of the kabobs grilling on the barbecuer in the article.

I said, “Do you think, if we arrange the text like this, we could put at least this one photo of the kabobs on the plate in the corner?”

But in my head I was wailing, “After all I suffered through for those photos?! Don’t make me lose an ear over this!”

(You can tell I was suffering by the exclamation points at pam@viewfromthenorth40.com.)


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