by Sara Junuzovic and Dain Ruiz
“Hot Dog Bridge” is a color lithograph by Russel T. Gordon that shows a comically large hot dog serving as a bridge for a gap in two cliffs or a regular-sized hot dog serving as a bridge between a comically small gap. Framed above the hot dog bridge is a colorful rainbow in a cloudy, bright sky that stretches from cliff to cliff. With this piece, Gordon “searched for those universal truths, which best expressed his own perspective on humanity” (MacDowell Organization), and we are left wondering why Gordon chose to include the hot dog as a way to express humanity.
Through his painting, Gordon appears to emphasize the importance of humanity in feasting; however, many questions can be raised when looking at Gordon’s piece from the perspective of the feast. If a hot dog can unite American society, is it enough for it to be considered a feast? To what extent does a meal have to be lavish or complicated for society to praise it as a feast? Does a simple hot dog have the same power to quench hunger as an upscale French meal might?
In his search for truths, Gordon likely found food to be what brings people together, and more specifically, the hot dog. The placement of this hot dog furthers this as it serves as a bridge, potentially one to unite American society and have everyone live in unity; symbolically, without it, anyone attempting to get over from one cliff to another would undoubtedly fall into what seems like an infinite pit. The hot dog is a simple, cheap food that is typically used at many types of events, such as the fair, a baseball game, or even a neighborhood cookout. The line that connects all these events is the idea that they all function as a way to gather people in one place, serving as symbols of community regardless of background. The hot dog serves as the quintessential American meal that is the bridge between two sides that may not have anything in common. This piece by Gordon emphasizes that the most important quality of the feast is community rather than the lavishness of the food. Without the need to be extravagant, simply enjoying a hot dog in a space with others can satisfy our hunger and serve as a feast that connects us all. He also challenges the notion that feasts must be lavish as the hot dog, a humble and inexpensive food, takes center stage in bridging societal gaps as the essence of a feast lies in the community rather than the opulence and complexity of the meal itself. As it is a symbol of unity, it transcends the mere act of satisfying one’s appetite, making the hot dog as fulfilling, if not more so, than an upscale French meal.
Contrasted with this thought is the division that is present without this food. Without the bridge and human connection of the hot dog, the gap between these opposing sides grows large as they have nothing to relate to with each other anymore. The comically small hot dog perspective of the piece emphasizes how small of a bridge is needed to actually connect people. The message is that even an object as small as a hot dog can serve as a bridge that people can walk on to make it to the other side and relate to others. On the other hand, the comically large hot dog perspective serves as a representation of how important the hot dog is as a bridge. The largeness of the hot dog equates it to the size of real-life bridges such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge. As the hot dog gets bigger, it becomes more instrumental by having the ability to lead greater groups of people across the gap and to the other side of the cliff.
Gordon’s use of vibrant color, the addition of a rainbow, and the comedic effect from his use of perspective add a complex layer to the idea of bridging the gap between people. The rainbow, colors, and comedy bring back a sense of childhood wonder and genuine emotion in the viewer. Additionally, the non-lavish nature of the hot dog chases away the complicated thoughts from the mind of the viewer and leaves only the basic thoughts of a child. By creating this childlike painting, it reminds the viewer of what it was like to once be a child eating a hot dog. A child does not worry about socioeconomic status or racial discrimination, and the rainbow and infinite laughter remind the viewer of this time in their lives. The gap and bottomless pit of separation seems to get smaller as the idea of feasting a hot dog underneath a rainbow leaves the viewer in this childlike state where those worries no longer hold value.
“Russell T. Gordon - Artist.” MacDowell Organization, www.macdowell.org/artists/russell-gordon.