February 18, 2019 | Essays

I think that this painting—Donut by Ralph Goings—is my new favorite. It was painted in 1995, the year that I was born.

Goings was a photorealist and much of his body of work depicts diners—their patrons, staff, and furnishings—with unbelievable fidelity. There are many famous paintings of diners (including that famous painting of a diner) but Goings' utterly lifelike style represents these spaces so affectionately. A simple fact about me is that I love donuts and coffee, and this is is a painting of a very appetizing donut and coffee. It's not rocket science why I love it. But there's more to my appreciation of Donut than that feeling of "it looks so real." Like I said: there's an immense and clear affection for his chosen subject.

Diners are colorful, liminal, local, mythologized spaces. Anyone who lives in a town with food is usually lucky enough to have a favorite diner that they can claim. They're quick bites and initiation sites and late-night oases and places where everybody knows your name. When Goings paints diners, his contagious reverence for the subtlest details and smallest ephemera doesn't just make you "feel like you're there," it makes you feel more touched than ever by the sublime beauty of a glass ketchup bottle in sunlight, a conversation over coffee, and yes, even a donut.

Photographs are not the subject of my paintings. They are the source of visual armature to build the painting on. The painting is made of canvas and wood and organic materials and exhibits an obvious touch of a human hand.

—Ralph Goings (1928-2016) | (quote)