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Bridging the Gap

by Mary Scott Brisson

[DOWNLOAD OF THIS IMAGE IS PROHIBITED.] Russell T. Gordon, American, 1936-2013, Hot Dog Bridge, 1974, color lithograph, image: 12 3/16 x 15 3/8 in. (31 x 39 cm), sheet: 17 x 19 3/8 in. (43.2 x 49.2 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gift of Dr. Christopher A. Graf and Janet Graf, his wife, 74.28.12. ©Estate of Russell T. Gordon.

Russell Gordon’s Hot Dog Bridge offers a visual interpretation of food’s bridging capabilities. Food facilitates connection and bonding amongst individuals. Sharing a meal creates common ground and fosters an environment for people to come together, converse, experience fellowship, and grow closer. The placement of Gordon’s hot dog between two canyons serves as a metaphor for food’s ability to act as a catalyst for an exchange of thoughts, laughter, questions, and conversation. In many cases, sharing a meal with others bridges gaps created by cultural, religious, or socioeconomic status barriers.

Moreover, the title of the piece further suggests how hot dogs specifically can act as “bridges” in the metaphorical sense. Gordon’s choice to use a hot dog as a bridge speaks to America’s long-enduring relationship with the food. Hot dogs exist as a common and beloved American food often associated with sporting events, barbecues, picnics, and school lunches. This ubiquity makes them a symbol of inclusivity and American culture. Furthermore, hot dogs maintain affordability and simplicity, thus typically making them accessible to people of all varying backgrounds. Their informality also reveals the relaxed nature of social gatherings that provide them, which works to create an unpretentious and inclusive atmosphere. Finally, hot dogs’ ability to take on customizations affords everyone the opportunity to personalize the food according to their different taste palates.

In Gordon’s image, the hot dog becomes a symbol of shared moments, traditions, a cure to cultural barriers, and connections formed from food in America. The image demonstrates the idea that a food as simple as a hot dog possesses the ability to serve as a bridge to unite people, regardless of their identity, and create a special form of community. His choice of colors further reveals the happy nature often associated with food and eating. His choice to include a rainbow, often a universal sign of inclusivity, illustrates how the artist himself understands hot dogs’ purpose and importance within American culture.


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