Great Food Makes Great Art | Jackie Nickerson

We’re going all arty in our new blog which examines some great works focussed on food and with an Irish theme. Instructed of course, by the experienced voice of Bill Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Resort Hotel and Spa in Rosslare.

Did you ever notice how often food features in art? Revered artists have often pick food as a hinge for great works. Perhaps the most famous painting in the world centred around food is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. His painting reflects the reactions of the apostles when Jesus tells them he knows one of them will betray him. The work envelopes Christ’s profound revelation, as all are gathered round the table to enjoy the conviviality of the Passover Feast. The food in this painting is simple, but the connection between food and occasion is one which has inspired contemplations by Christians and art lovers alike.

Rene Magritte’s Son of Man is another work with a religious theme. An image of contemporary man wearing formal city gent dress of long overcoat, shirt, tie and bowler hat, with his face almost entirely covered by an apple. This work was a self-portrait by Magritte, created in 1964, now owned by a private collector. It embraces man’s creation, and what he has become, leaving the viewer with many questions to ponder as to the state of mind of the artist and how he saw himself as he painted the piece.  It is with great pleasure we look to one of our Good Food Ireland members for commentary on another piece of art which also has food and religion connections. Bill Kelly is one of Ireland’s foremost hoteliers and a consummate professional in the industry.  He owns and runs Kelly’s Resort and Spa in Rosslare, Co. Wexford, which has been in the Kelly family for generations. Bill is also an avid collector of great art, which is on display at the hotel in the private and public rooms.

Bill has chosen this image for our new blog series on Great Food makes Great Art, which connects food in an Irish theme. A Fuji crystal archive light jet print of Sister Josephine, of the Cistercian Sisters of St. Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn, Co. Waterford. Created by international artist Jackie Nickerson in 2005, as part of a series called ‘Faith’. Nickerson is well known for her photography work around the world. She is non-Irish and non-Catholic, approaching this particular subject matter for the ‘Faith’ series without bias or prejudice.

Nickerson’s image of Sister Josephine captures the simplicity and sparseness of a nun’s life. Convents generally have their own gardens where nuns work to grow seasonal fruit and vegetables. They also usually tend their own flock of hens for fresh eggs every day. So there is always wholesome food which the nuns provide for themselves. Growing and producing food at the convent, depicted here by the tray of eggs, is very much a part of this chosen life path of self-reliance and prayer. With Easter approaching, we think it’s a very appropriate image for the season.

Bill says ‘I found these images very intriguing. I particularly like the way Jackie has caught the friendly faces, which incorporate the personality of the individuals. We have these pictures on display in our Ivy Room Corridor, so our guests pass them every day and they always catch their eyes. It can certainly be a topic of conversation. I feel it gets people talking about the art. It’s amazing to see the different views people see, especially as it can be a very controversial subject. However, I think Jackie is a very inspiring artist who captured another side. She mentions in her book she really was intrigued, and why would someone institutionalize themselves. Why would they choose such a radical lifestyle!’ 

We love this image for its clarity in portraying a way of life which as Jackie Nickerson indicates, is harsh and rigid by many people’s standards. But it also shows that for those who have embraced it, the path can provide great solace and inner happiness in the simple things we take for granted every day.  

This is just one example of how great food can make great art. Follow along on our blog, and each month we will highlight pieces of art in Bill Kelly’s collection that showcase the amazing inspiration that great food provides us all with.