No apology for jelly

Two women of note died this past week, singer Aretha Franklin at 76 and artist Mary Pratt at 83, both a tremendous inspiration, but I’m thinking of Pratt in particular today and the paintings highlighted in stories about her. Those jellies, oh those jellies, how they glow from within! Perfect jellies, clear and luminous, reflected also on the table. Many commentators noted how Pratt’s work honoured matters of domestic life. She made us look at the glint of foil, the cream and golden tones of egg shells in a carton, fish on a plate. (Google “Mary Pratt Artwork” Images for many examples of her work.) In turn, I wish to honour her for paying such magnificent attention.

One reason is that many of us, like Pratt, tried to balance domestic and “other” work, and if we remember, that wasn’t an easy task, was it? Who, in fact, ever achieves balance? But Pratt brought — or kept — often competing worlds together, when the temptation for her generation and mine was to wrench them apart or feel our domestic concerns disparaged by others. In Pratt’s work there’s no apology for jelly or a casserole dish in the microwave or the remnants of a meal. She acknowledges both their beauty and the labour they represent.

The other reason I wish to honour her is that aging has a way of setting us back into smaller, and domestic, settings. This isn’t to say we no longer get out or view grand vistas or participate in the storied drama of life. But those my age or older will know what I mean. And I also mean I want to really notice what’s around me now and how light still plays with broken eggs, foil, and jelly.


Jelly Shelf, Mary Pratt, 1999





4 thoughts on “No apology for jelly

  1. I like your title, Dora. I began my academic career in midlife and didn’t always manage the homemade jams and jellies (although when I look back I’m quite amazed at what I all managed to do!) I have enjoyed the translucent apricot jam I make now in my slower moving years. Oh, and rhubarb and strawberry combination is so delicious! I often think of my mother when I do domestic things, especially when I beat an egg with a fork (must have watched her do it hundreds of times when I was little!)

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  2. Lovely description. A beautiful portrayal of the often underrated “domestic” life in the words of your article and Mary Pratt’s paintings. I seem to remember two phases of trying to balance work and home – one where it was considered a negative for mom’s to go to work outside the home, followed by another where stay-at-home moms were looked at as inferior to working women.Yes, indeed, “Who, in fact, ever achieves balance?”

    Liked by 1 person

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