Who’s Coming to Dinner? Food with Art

How do you see yourself – Kitchen Goddess, Diva of Design, Mom’s Taxi, Writer Extraordinaire, Care-Taker?

Artist Haley Hasler paints herself as a strong woman in super-abundant settings usually with children and often with food.


Currently displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, FL, Hasler demonstrates the resurgence of realism with bold strokes on large canvases. It is impossible to miss her exuberance. As she explains on her website, “The self-portrait confronts the viewer with an outward representation of the inner self.” And what an energetic self that must be!

She depicts her figures in fanciful costumes of daily life “balanced at the precipice of chaos” (a quote from the gallery that features her work.) Her paintings may recall life at home for you in days gone by, but I’m guessing on a less-grand scale.

Tooth Fairy - Hasler
Tooth Fairy – Hasler
Palomino - Hasler
Palomino – Hasler
Sunday Brunch - Hasler
Sunday Brunch – Hasler
Tea Party - Hasler
Tea Party – Hasler

Young girl peeks out from under the tea table while playing a violin as boy (possibly her brother) snoozes or at least pretends to.

MOCA permits photography of art works for non-commercial purposes
MOCA permits photography of art works for non-commercial purposes

* * *

Like Haley Hasler working in the same decade of the 1970s, artist Judy Chicago portrays not just one but 39 women in her famous work displayed in the Brooklyn Museum, NYC. And instead of a single canvas, Ms. Chicago’s installation entitled The Dinner Party features a huge triangular table measuring 48 feet on each of its three sides honoring famous women throughout history, each with a symbolic place setting: a napkin, utensils, goblet and a plate.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Also a part of this installation, on the Heritage Floor of the museum appear white tiles of gilded porcelain inscribed with the names of 999 more notable women. Among these is the name of Sarah Moore Grimké (1792 -1873) an American abolitionist and writer who did extensive public speaking opposing slavery and supporting women’s rights.

That's one determined woman
Here is one determined woman

Sarah Grimké is one of the dual protagonists in The Invention of Wings (2014), the much acclaimed historical novel by prize-winning author Sue Monk Kidd, who was inspired to write the book (she admits in her Acknowledgements) while viewing Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party installation. Sarah, speaker, writer, and suffragist, helped change the course of American history with her activism.

Sue Monk Kidd’s book with the two main characters, Sarah Grimké and her handmaid Hetty Handful, will be the topic of next week’s blog post. Stand by for action!

Maybe the words Diva, Goddess, Tooth Fairy or Activist don’t come to mind when you think of yourself. But you do have a title whether it’s Sister, Cook, Doctor, Teacher, Grandmother, a combination of the two, or something else entirely.

Tell us yours.


43 thoughts on “Who’s Coming to Dinner? Food with Art

  1. You were right, Marian, I WAS surprised. I expected someone at your family table, or perhaps some memory of a family meal from the past. I remember Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, but I never saw it in person. I haven’t read The Invention of Wings yet, although it’s been on a list in my brain.

    I usually just think of myself as Merril, but I guess job titles would be Mom, Wife, Sister, Friend, Writer, Historian. . . 🙂


    1. Your work is encyclopedic and your titles kaleidoscopic making for a full and rich life. I’d love to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party too. I understand the place settings are mixed media: weaving, embroidery, ceramics, china painting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A completely fascinating post Marian thank you. So many women have stood up for what is right throughout history and have contributed so much towards change in spite of ‘obstacles’ … heroines all of them. Off the top of my head, I think of Joan of Arc, Graca Machel, Helen Suzman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Virginia Wolff, Anais Nin … .. but before I start stretching my brain cells, just to thank you and I look forward to next week’s blog post!

    I don’t know how to describe myself in a title … but if you allow me a little license, I previously have described my self as a pessimistic optimist if I had to narrow it down completely –

    Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend! 🙂


    1. Many of the names you listed are represented around Judy Chicago’s dinner table or on the tiles on the Heritage Floor.

      You described yourself as a pessimistic optimist. I’m assuming you usually look on the bright side but are realistic at the same time. Thanks for the good wishes, Susan.


  3. Great post, Marian. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, chief health zealot, all tied up in the title of domestic engineer, with a big dose of feminism and of course, I’m a goddess. 🙂


  4. Another example of creative connection, Marian. I never can predict where you are going to go next — and I love that.

    I remember seeing The Dinner Party in the late 80’s or early 90’s in Chicago. Very impressive. Formal. Low lighting. Brilliant use of reverse psychology to help the viewer rethink women’s strengths and their relationship to roles they play. I also loved Roseann Barr’s comedy act on being a “domestic goddess.”

    Thanks for introducing me to Hasler’s work. I think my favorite is Tooth Fairy.

    As for now? I think much of what I am doing and being could fall under the category of Storyteller.


    1. Storyteller is the perfect umbrella word for all the roles you play: writer, speaker, blogger, and of course the domestic and familial roles too. Each thread of our lives is woven into one gigantic tapestry. Thank you for reminding us of this.

      Someday I hope to see “The Dinner Party” live at the Brooklyn Museum. It lives in my mind only as a picture now. I always appreciate viewing my posts from your angle. Thank you, Shirley.


  5. Pray you all have a happy new year. Amazing beautiful paintings. Not familiar with any of these artist or books. I tell you I learn so much from your blogs that opens my curiosity to learn more. I have to stop one day and take time to go to the art museum we have here in Chicago. I wear many hats: mother, sister, grandmother, wife, interpreter, counselor, leader in church and community. Also, an ambassador to refugees to teach about their new country. Provider of people’s needs. Constantly on the move. Only through the strength of God can I do any of this. On my own strength I would collapse Lol.


    1. The title of Mother’s 90th birthday celebration, if you remember, was Helping Hands. She, like you, served others her entire life. Obviously, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Thank you for reading and commenting, Gloria.

      One note: You may want to visit the Art Institute of Chicago when you get into the city. It’s a beautiful place. Our daughter-in-law Sarah got her Master’s degree in art therapy at the school associated with it.


  6. Marian — THE INVENTION OF WINGS in nearing the top of my reading list and I can hardly wait! I’m a new-comer to Haley Hasler’s bold work and can see already that I love it! Thank you for the introduction via this fun post.

    I think my self-portrait would be titled the GET ER DONE GAL!


    1. That title certainly fits you, but I would have to add: WITH VERVE! Joy is apparent in all you do. And you do it with your distinctive style. Thanks for commenting here and for the tweet. You among the top 3 commenters this past year. So grateful for you!


  7. The art work is amazing. I have to confess when I first saw Hasler’s paintings I wasn’t sure, but I hung about for a while and now I quite like them. I have never heard of The Dinner Party but I will have fun researching it.
    Sarah Grimke …Wow !!!!!! what a woman.
    I have read half of The Invention Of Wing. It is still waiting for me on my Kindle. I was moving house at the time and I couldn’t get into it …it’s on my list to get finished .
    I’m Miss procrastinator lol


    1. Good for you: You don’t dismiss art that feels overwhelming to begin with. I have to confess, I felt the same way until I saw the paintings “in person.” They are very large and mounted on a big space. Let me know what you think when you check out The Dinner Party.

      Cherry, I doubt that you are Miss Procrastinator. You do get things done, just the opposite of that title. Thanks for stopping by.


  8. I find myself imitating the hands in “Tooth Fairy.”
    I love how the realistic look unmasks the hidden heroics of balancing oneself in daily life.
    At this moment, I’m the Purring Goddess. My crown is a wool hat, and I just finished combing my two cats, who pur as I comb them.


    1. This poem, by a poet who died on New Year’s Day, seems to interpret the paintings:

      Compassion is actually a poem, written by Lucinda Williams’ father, the Arkansas poet Miller Williams:


      Have compassion for everyone you meet

      even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,

      bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign

      of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.

      You do not know what wars are going

      down there where the spirit meets the bone.


    2. Dolores, I found myself going back to the painting of the Tooth Fairy and then mimicking her hands, just like you did. Our lives are a balancing act, to be sure.

      I love your description of yourself as a Purring Goddess. Actually, I know several fine women who would classify themselves as such. Ha!


  9. How creative and clever! Yes, I’ve been all those in my life time, plus a few more! Let’s see, child, sister, daughter, niece, granddaughter, aunt, mother, wife, cook, cleaner, sweeper upper, mopper, nose wiper, mommy, lover, student, actress, reader, window washer, raker, writer, wannabe artist, travelor, painter, and so many more… Oh yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m also a procrastinator!


    1. Not much of a procrastinator, Anita, with all of the posts I see on your blog every week. I believe you have some grist for the blog mill here. I am sure your readers would want to hear more about the actress and painter. Thanks for adding to our conversation today.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love Ms. Chicago’s Dinner Part installation art. How innovative. Today I am caretaker and recuperating myself. Not much fun but thank goodness it is only fierce hard colds (we think). Thanks for the transport out of my four walls!


    1. “Transport out of my four wall” – what an interesting expression which signifies what your blog does for me as well. Another window on the world, especially when one is sick. Hope you feel better soon, Melodie.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What richly drawn paintings of a very active and vibrant woman. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing, Marian. That Westie in the first photo looks like yours. 😉

    What would my title be? I used to borrow comedian Roseann Barr’s phrase, “domestic goddess.” When our girls were little, I joked that there was a reason that the TV show “My Mother the Car” was created. It typified my life – and that of many moms – who are busy taking their kids to activities, etc. But I enjoyed that time, too. The girls were into gymnastics, singing and drama. Great fun.


    1. You have a sharp eye, Judy, for noticing the Westie. My daughter complains about her function as “The Car.” I hadn’t heard of that TV show.

      You are a great juggler of writing, teaching, and much more. I guess you can show-horn “goddess” with any of your roles – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend, neighbor, student, aunt, librarian, wife, mother, child of God, citizen of the world.

    I like the tea party painting. I remember many times making play spots under tables, behind sofas, under porches, beneath low hanging tree branches, blanket over a clothes line. Special fun little places filled with
    playmates, stuffed animals and imagination.


  13. What a rich and delicious post, Marian depicting the fanciful in the midst of chaos. I am struck by the ornate self-images in realistic settings. I love the vivid colors and details. As far as my roles for now, all of the above but Juggler pops out as a key one! I am currently immersed in a book about FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. Now there’s an amazing woman far ahead of her time. Thanks for a wonderful post. I love the eclectic nature of your blog.


    1. You pointed out something that struck me too in Hasler’s painting: spot-on self-portraits. Of all the epithets suggested so far, Juggler fits me best right now.

      Thank you for mentioning Eleanor Roosevelt. I’ve always admired her chutzpah; I believe recently PBS featured a documentary on her and her family. Yes, my blog is eclectic, juggling the nostalgic with the contemporary. As always, I appreciate your adding to the conversation today.


    1. Ah, you flatter me! I would be happy just to view this installation at The Brooklyn Museum in NYC. I wouldn’t know all of the honorees, but I would certainly enjoy each place setting. I have a feeling you would agree, Jenn.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful. I’ve been making collages with my women’s mythology class as we study four feminine archetypes–Mother, Hetaira, Amazon, and Medial Woman. We go for spontaneity and it’s exciting to see how revealing the images are.


    1. I’d love to take your class, Elaine. There is nothing more special than creating a new form – kudos to your teaching style. This sounds like fodder for a blog post. Perhaps you have already done one on these images.


      1. I’m not the teacher, Marian. We take turns leading and have done that for 25 years. I haven’t done much leading recently because of the book, but I did more than my share in the past and will do more in the future. We have an artist and an expressive arts therapist in the group, so they led the collage exercise. When we do a retreat, various people lead different parts. We always have a great dish-to-pass. I want to write about these things more and will, but also have to respect the privacy of others. I managed the balance when I wrote about these women in my book.


        1. I’ve always thought writing and making art fit together. As far as I am concerned you can add in music too.

          Thanks for setting me straight about the class. Storytellers are teachers too – in that you surely qualify!


          1. Yes, I’m a teacher in other spheres. It’s interesting to be ia long lasting group (some change in membership over the years, but a core group has been involved from the beginning) with no leader. We study mythology, dig deeply into meaning reading everything from poetry to Plato to Egyptian archeology, meditate together, dance, sing, do ritual, create art, and we support each other.


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