for Anthony

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide still sits inside me and shifts around as I move it backward and forward in my heart. His book and the one that changed his life from obscure kitchen lackey to major travel/foodie superstar is Kitchen Confidential, one of my favourite reads this century. I am now watching Parts Unknow in chronological order as I don’t get CNN and have never, ever watched that channel. As I watch him now, his haunted, lanky looks seem to be both a part of the world and not as he tries to inhabit places where real people live and eat. Even though you can tell through time his dress, luggage and everything got decidedly upscale, his love for the equality between the street and the temple was an embedded compass he brought everywhere. He always seems uncomfortable but delighted by the surprises and pleasure eating with other people can bring. He is at his best when among journalists, writers and thinkers as he himself is part of the club; a wonderful writer and philosopher who could probably tell you more about the world than any Phd. expert.

Upon reaching the summit of a temple in Myanmar his companion, one of the world’s greatest chef’s remarks at how special the view is, how holy and monumental it all is and imbued with spirituality. Bourdain responds by saying perhaps but also there must have been loads of slave labour involved in creating it. It is this world view that may have caused his eventual mortal decision, but it is also this kind of world view that for me is essential to understanding who we are as a species and where we are going. It now occurs to me that I have been underestimating my passion for who he was, what he stood for but mostly for what he said. While his shows were scripted by him, he was smart enough and creative enough to understand how to make spontaneous moments matter. He allowed himself to be in the moment on film. As you watch Parts Unknown you become aware at what a gift this is that we are left with.

This a great book.

Bourdain worked in restaurants for over 20 years before he wrote his first book and never made money until he was almost 50. For alternative types who are slow starters his journey is proof that youth isn’t necessarily the best place to shine. His age is very much a part of what made him so relatable; somewhat grumpy, a complete grasp of his capabilities and lack of, humble and honest about his origins, and a stoic perseverant spirit that  knows that life unfolds in front of you and choice is all you have. He was a grown up. A real one. Hard drinking, former drug abuse and righteous sarcasm aside, knowing one’s faults and still showing up is the hallmark of maturation. Bourdain exemplified this in spades.

It may seem curious to some that I have chosen to laud a celebrity chef here in my little art blog as opposed to some inspiring artist or creative team. Unfortunately, I find that career-oriented curators and academia leaning art work uninteresting. I say unfortunately because an MA is the thing to have today and working with someone to get an international show seems to be the goal so… boring. Give me the travels and curious experiences of artists who do their own thing, set up their own shop, travel and make work that means something to them. I guess I wish the arts had an Anthony Bourdain. We don’t. Sadly, I don’t think that he’d be appreciated even if he did exist in the art world.

I don’t know why but the arts are missing that heroic panache of someone who calls out pretension and tries to level the playing field among the art stars and the not-art stars. Who is that person? They don’t exist. And maybe they can’t. Maybe the foodie world is easier for someone like Bourdain to exist in, perhaps because its frontline venues are eateries and not galleries. Or maybe the art world isn’t as curious about the bigger world the way Bourdain was.

Food can travel so well, be a symbol of a shared world, and involve everyone. Art should be like that too. I do see some vying for such a world and I am grateful. We should always see the struggle because we won’t always have a Bourdain to point it out.



written on the sea

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Over the last month we spent a few weeks on the Gaspe Peninsula along the north shore, with many days in Cap des Rosiers. The following is a poem that I am struggling through. It is a work in progress.

When I was in the Gaspe on the ocean words came to me not paintings. Jotting these thoughts down over time has helped me digest my trip and also my complete stupidity regarding time. How am I here now and there then? The whole thing is weird. In any event here is my poem in progress. 

The white lines stay, written on the sea as it were

They had moved up and down, jagged turns and ways back, the quartz composition in the cliff, geological time markings, stories

Their sharp curves and sudden stops only to be reconnected when the tides move in and they sublimate to water

I have been near the sea, it’s salt and thick air full of fishy tones

The night waves rock us to sleep but enter us too, embedding their rhythm into tissue, sinew and bone

Our body’s circulations ebb and flow now like tides

The sun shone brightly onto our beach, it was ours and only ours

The larger rocks tossed around the pebbles are in perfect formations –  like a sculpture garden with an uncomplicated focus

The waves had come again, this time riding high with white foam, crashing down, prone, teeth-like and then scattered sparkling green blue water

We noticed how the wind moved the shore into and away from us; our footing was wobbly inspiring moments of healthy fear

Today we moved about like the clouds, at times swiftly with blowy determination, bright and white and then grey, then to a slow temporal wandering

Cap des Rosiers Lighthouse

Eventually the clouds (not us) turned into a blank vapour and took from us our cliffs, birds, mountains and finally our lighthouse that disappeared during the bright time of the day.

Veiled by the grey matter, freezing wet* fog crawled onto everything

When it left, the fog had not gotten rid of anything but only hid what mattered most, our shiny hopes and dreams

*Fog or a sea fret as the English would say has always appeared when on the east coast, always obscuring our sketching site lines and making the expectations of vista dulled. I like to look at vistas, not capture vistas anyway.

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