Heirlooms in Paint, Tomatoes and Otherwise

I was shopping at a grocery store with my family when, as usual, suggestions were thrown around as to subjects for a painting. It’s starting to become a family pastime with grocery stores gaining a double function as large prop closets, but I don’t mind since as I mentioned on my blog a couple weeks ago a lot of my family’s ideas turn out to be spot on.

Heirloom 16x15.75 oil on panel by Brady Allen
Heirloom 16×15.75 oil on panel by Brady Allen

Of course I always put my own twist on the suggestions, which in this case was to paint heirloom tomatoes up in the air and tied to a wooden slat.

I told the story in this blog post, and even show some step by step photos of the painting process. But as I was painting I started to think about what I was painting. I would like to say that I was some sort of genius who thought these things up before hand, but as I stated in the follow up blog post I’m not usually a planner.

Most of the time my paintings turn out to have personal meanings that are hidden from me while I’m conceiving and producing them. This time there was nothing earth shattering but it was the concept of an heirloom. In England where the term heirloom originated, an heirloom was a piece of family equipment that was needed for the family business to continue after a progenitor’s death. And because of tax laws it was designated as an heirloom and would not be taxed as long as it remained within the family line.

So literally, if you were a family of weavers, and you wove cloth or rugs on a loom and the head of the household died, you did not have to pay taxes on the loom to continue to use it to produce your cloth or rugs.

Of course this extended to other pieces of equipment in family business situations, but over time the idea of an heirloom became something that was passed down from one generation to the next, but was not necessarily equipment or functional in any way.

So, as I was thinking about what to call this painting and thinking about why I was painting it, I started to realize that the blue canning jar was my Mother’s and even though I was borrowing it, it had the potential to be passed to her children some day.

And I was also thinking of the other jar, filled with flour, sugar, and all of the other dry ingredients to make a batch of Christmas cookies, and how it was at least two Christmases old. I started to speculate that it too might be around long enough to become an heirloom, but more likely of the tongue in cheek kind.

And then the obviousness of the last bit of Stuff that I had gathered to put into the painting to help the composition struck me as a fortuitous choice. The old wooden spindle was from an actual old mill, which is just large fancy mechanical loom for making cloth or rugs.

There are, of course, a few other hidden meanings and things in Heirloom that for now I’d like to keep to myself, but I’m satisfied with the painting and I’m looking forward to the next one.