Uncommon collaboration

Just before I left North Carolina for California I got an email from Enda O’Donoghue, an Irish artist based in Germany, asking whether he could use one of my photos as the basis for a painting. He acknowledged my public domain dedication, which was cool, but wanted to ask anyway, which was also cool. Of course I said yes, and we emailed back and forth a bit.

Turns out he’s done a series of paintings based on interesting photos he’s found on the web, usually with all the blips and blops that come with low resolution amateur shots. In fact he was disappointed my photos were so clear. Sorry. The photo he chose was one of a potluck dinner prepared by our residence area for Thanksgiving back when I was a senior in college (November 2001).

original thanksgiving dinner photo
Thanksgiving dinner at Spencer dorm

At one point he asked me whether the white blob was mayonnaise—and whether the “meal in question” had been any good. It struck me that maybe he didn’t realize this was a fairly typical Thanksgiving dinner, one of those cultural events unique to America. So I explained:

The white blob is Cool Whip (fat free whipped cream) on pumpkin pie. To the right of the pie is green bean casserole, beneath that in the lower right corner is what they call cornbread “dressing” in the South, but “stuffing” elsewhere, except it’s cooked outside of the turkey in a big lasagna pan. The yellow stuff in the lower left is a mystery to me. It looks like rice, possibly in a cheesy sauce possibly with some broccoli in it on the left. The red splotch in the top left is cranberry sauce/mold, and of course above that is a bread roll. I don’t believe that was my plate, so I’m not sure if it was good or not. I’m a fan of turkey and gravy, and green bean casserole mostly.

Sometime last week I got an email back with a photo attached saying the painting was complete! How cool is that?

original thanksgiving dinner photo
Thanksgiving, a painting by Enda O’Donoghue

Of course if you didn’t know it was a photo of a 35×23″ painting, you might think he’d just run my photo through a creative Photoshop filter. So now I’m mulling over whether to purchase the painting to hang over my dining table—after he exhibits it in Germany and Ireland.

I think it’s hella cool, but I wonder whether my future dinner guests would think so?


jane, you’re probably right, but the photo was in a photo album labeled thanksgiving. and yeah, i probably wouldn’t have put a big honkin’ piece of pie on top of all those fixins.

actually after going back to the photo album to look at the picture of all of us eating, you can tell that it’s actually mike’s plate—the guy on the right with the red shirt.

as i’m sure alice would affirm, he’s definitely the type of person to put a piece of pie on top of his otherwise savory food like that.

i dunno, donutgrrl, the more i look at the painting the more i like it. i’m going to have to settle for being a big weirdo i guess. :)


i don’t think anyone could look at that revolting mess and think to themselves, “oh, thanksgiving. of course.” Gross! Who puts pumpkin pie on top of all that other crap? Thanksgiving can have such regional variety, too–that looks nothing like a thanksgiving meal at my house.

Only buy that to hang over your dining room table if you want your guests to barf instead of eat.

(the painting itself is rather cool, however. no diss to the painter. i quite like how he rendered the plate and fork.)

one could certainly implicate mike in this “uncommon collaboration”. the one nagging question i had (other than what the heck was that yellow stuff in the lower left?) was whether or not it was i who took the picture? i think i can now say definitely that i did, given that this picture, numbered 2902 is preceded only by the picture of mike about to take a truly massive bite, numbered 2901.

so to reconstruct history, mike took his bite, put down his fork, and i walked over, leaned over his plate, and forever captured his amusing (or revolting) juxtaposition of dessert on dinner. magnifique!


I’d think you were a big weirdo if you had this hanging anywhere, but it’s neat too….if you think about how weird food is in general then this is a rather profound painting….the “masters” always made food look so lovely, so I enjoy the grotesque aspects of this image….it’s like a modern day Bacon versus the taco truck experience.
he he


cream corn? the yellow stuff…

it could be, but if you click the picture at the top, and then click the picture again in the gallery, at the full resolution it kind of looks more like rice suspended in gelatinous yellow.


it is so odd to think that that plate existed for one moment in time, before being devoured by mike in a dorm far away from you on a day in the somewhat distant past, mike never thinking twice about his configuration, let alone guessing his dinner would become permanent art…

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