Thomas Cole’s Kabocha

A while back, I began a series of still life paintings featuring colorful squash as the major element, with backgrounds borrowed from classical paintings. Although I really enjoyed this series, I temporarily set it aside while I worked on my river stone paintings. But the squash are metaphors, and I haven’t come anywhere near to exhausting the concept I’m exploring with these.

Here’s a story about one of those paintings. 

One fall day, I spotted a gorgeous Kabocha squash at my local grocery store (kabocha is not to be confused with Kombucha, the fermented tea drink). It had the most glorious color, like a deep orange sunset, after we’ve had smoke from wildfires (luckily, we’ve been spared that this summer). Over its surface ran veins of celadon green, perfectly complementing its orange skin. I took it home and set it up on the wooden dais I use for my still life compositions, then surrounded it with some green and gray Japanese glass floats that once belonged to my mother, to bring out the green of the squash veins.

According to www.SpecialtyProduce.com, “the Orange kabocha squash, botanically classified as Cucurbita maxima, is a uchiki red kuri and kabocha squash hybrid. The Orange kabocha, sometimes known as sunshine kabocha, is said to have superior flavor and texture over its parenting varieties.”

That kabocha was a metaphor for all that’s beautiful and nutritious for both body and soul in nature, and it deserved a dynamic background. I looked to the Hudson River School of landscape painters for inspiration, and chose Thomas Cole’s “View Across Frenchman’s Bay From Mt. Desert Island, After a Squall” painted in 1845 and currently in the Cincinnati Art Museum. 

Thomas Cole’s “View Across Frenchman’s Bay From Mt. Desert Island, After a Squall,” 1845

Thomas Cole’s “View Across Frenchman’s Bay From Mt. Desert Island, After a Squall,” 1845

Cole’s warm clouds and cool greens of the sea worked beautifully with the colors of the kabocha and glass floats. When I delivered the painting to my collectors, I also presented them with the kabocha, whereupon they made a delicious squash soup and invited me over to enjoy it with them. It tasted as delicious as it looked!

Here is my finished painting, and some clowning around in my collectors’ home with the kabocha!