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The Hot Dog as a Self-Contained Feast in Hot Dog Bridge

by Christina Polge

[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.

Hot Dog Bridge by Russell T. Gordon is an idyllic and striking image, showing a hot dog functioning as a bridge between two ends of a canyon. The art piece portrays a hot dog in a whimsical setting, exemplifying food’s place in forming a person’s identity through hope, memory and pleasure, all of which are aspects of a feast. Because of the hot dog’s prominent position in the lithograph, Gordon shows that the hot dog is a self-contained feast.

Through its relationship with the rainbow, Hot Dog Bridge glorifies the hot dog, showing that it is not just nourishment. It is also a representation of hope. The hot dog itself has multiple purposes, serving as a bridge and a food. The existence of a rainbow implies that there was a danger that has since disappeared, since rainbows only appear after storms. Its position framing the hot dog, as well as lack of sun could suggest that the hot dog itself is the solution to a past storm. Rainbows are also a sign of magic and luck which a lot of people dream about seeing. The hot dog being the cause of this one illustrates that it is also magical in a sense, perhaps due to its affordability. The lithograph highlights the duality of normalcy and magic in a hot dog by linking it directly to the rainbow, showing that a hot dog bridges the gap to a beautiful yet possible future.

Furthermore, the fantastical style depicted in the lithograph is childlike due to the use of primary colors and whimsical imagery, representing the nostalgia tied to food. The lithograph captures the euphoria in eating something that one has formed a deep connection with. This bright, fantastical moment parallels how other media depict eating food for the first time. Children’s films specifically lean into this magical feel because that kind of big and bright experience is naturally childlike. In the Pixar film Ratatouille, when Remy eats cheese and strawberries for the first time, he is immediately surrounded by bright colors and almost overwhelmed by his own euphoria (Ratatouille 4:28-4:53). But it is not just the first time he eats food that he experiences such expansive joy, signifying that food continually has that effect no matter how many times it is eaten. Like any other feast, regardless of how small, it imprints on him and he continues to associate food with bright colors. Similarly, the hot dog here is bright and covered in sun, showing that it is an integral part of childhood which then translates into importance for an entire lifetime. The bright colors are just one element of the outlandish, joyful image that enhances its connection for many Americans as a nostalgic feast with a formative influence on childhood experience.

The aesthetic pleasure of looking at the hot dog in the lithograph shows that the appearance of food is just as memorable and impactful as its taste. The perfect, formulaic clouds and bright blue sky are cartoonish in nature. Combined with the rainbow and canyon, the entire scene is a dreamscape. The hot dog alone is appealing to look at even without the other elements. The biggest focus is on the bun, but the red of the hot dog is peeking out from either side in an enticing way, in a color that matches the rocks, showing there is more to be intrigued by and encouraging exploration. The hot dog is the only distinct, individual thing in the lithograph showing that it has distinct, individual characteristics. Through its colorful, central role, it is pleasurable to look at. The aesthetic pleasure then leads to curiosity about taste. This excitement also contributes to the memorability of the hot dog because it is appealing to think about later.

Because of the rainbow, childlike imagery and superficial appeal, the hot dog has all the required elements for a feast. The hot dog is more than just food because it provides emotional, nostalgic and aesthetic fulfillment. Even though the traditional feast is a whole meal spread, the hot dog is its own wonderful feast as well. Hot Dog Bridge shows that any meal, no matter how seemingly small or mundane, could evoke a formative experience that should be considered a feast in itself.


Ratatouille. Dir. Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava. Buena Vista Pictures, 2007.


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