The kitchen tableau
Art expression comes in hundreds of forms, and often it is of a very personal taste –or lack of-as demonstrated by the whackos who try to pawn off cadavers as art. It is about each of us finding our inner muse and recognizing her and accepting her. Well, I believe that I have finally recognized my muse; the muse of The Kitchen Tableau.
The “tableau” is a recognized artistic expression in which items are placed together in a striking fashion, to create a living canvas. If you were to throw in the cat, it would become a “tableau vivant.” I am sure that some may scoff and say this is not art, but I will explain, hopefully without sounding too flaky. I now see myself as a visual artiste; the kitchen my canvas.
When I get home from the Saturday farmers’ market, I don’t immediately empty my wicker shopping bag, overflowing with fresh produce and flowers. I want to enjoy the vision of this perfect work of art, like something on the cover of “Country Living.” But the flowers eventually need water, and so the bag must be emptied.
The next frame is of this same bounty of colours, handsomely strewn over my countertop. Don’t for a moment think that there was not any thought put to this distribution. Even this apparent jumble was produced to please the eye. I have moved those ruby peppers and the amethyst onions with their jade stalks to catch the light just right, perhaps with some jalapenos or tomatillos for added complexity. Richly coloured carrots and beets rest on the drain board, their final angle of repose carefully orchestrated. Don’t assume that they will be on the menu for tonight or even the next; I am simply enjoying their natural beauty.
Jars of chutney, bottles of oils and vinegars, lemons and limes, bags of grains, and any other brightly coloured food or even food packaging I find appealing, may end up as part of this oeuvre. Against the judgement of friends who obviously know my habit of collecting, I had to have open pantry and dish shelves in my new kitchen. I want to be able to enjoy the delicate floral patterns and bold colours of my dishes and glassware. I don’t care that it may mean dusting once in awhile.
For some, fallen petals from an arrangement are just litter to be swept away, but I find the natural way that the pinks and yellows mingle just too pretty to remove from the table top until they turn an unattractive shade of brown., and even that is subject to change.
Friends and family have long known that when they remove a piece of fruit from one of my displays, they may likely have their hands slapped. There is fruit in the fridge for eating; leave my still life alone. I have a favourite graniteware colander that often sits in my sink filled with rose-coloured apples, too pretty to eat. And just try plucking off a handful of grapes, leaving the ugly stems behind. Doesn’t anyone but me know that they are supposed to break off an entire branch at one time? I often even snip the grapes into small bunches, but still some people don’t get it.
I do recognize that I may carry this obsession too far, when I find myself yanking a dishtowel out of some well-intentioned guest’s hand. The colourful orange and blue towels you will see displayed in my kitchen are just that, display. For dish drying, I have less pleasing towels in a drawer; ones that don’t necessarily match my yellow fridge. And although I keep a decorator bottle of apple-green dish soap in my window, I prefer to use the bottle hidden away in the cupboard. The one in the window is there to catch the sunlight.
And then, the inevitable day arrives when either my subjects begin to rot, or I actually need to use them. I admit that sometimes I will go out and buy less attractively packaged olive oil or balsamic vinegar, just so I don’t have to use up my favourite bottle. This is perhaps why I possess at least several bottles or jars of practically every condiment imaginable. I hate to open those lovely jars of chutney and mustard from the farmers’ market because then they have to go into the fridge, and until I figure out a way to create a refrigerated tableau, I hate to bury them away from sight.
So, there it is. Whether you believe that I am an artist or a flake is up to you. Or perhaps this is just the most scathingly brilliant subterfuge ever to excuse clutter. But I am serious about the grapes! Welcome to my tableau.
I really don’t believe that it is necessary to label one’s personal style. We’ve all known people who have one year stated that they were “doing” Mission, and the next year deciding to go Retro, and holding a huge garage sale. But in last weekend’s newspaper, there was an article about a couple who have a home described as “busy.” Rooms were over-crowded with furniture, books lay in piles everywhere and collections of china openly displayed. The writer called this style “Edwardian.” I rather like that. I’m not a clutter freak; I’m simply into Edwardian.