When a Tabletop is Not Just a Tabletop

By Maurice Pinzon
Kimberlee Hewitt is a photojournalist and an artist. Although not well known in the galleries of Manhattan that may change soon.

The idea seems simple enough. Ms. Hewitt photographs restaurant tabletops while New Yorkers eat and drink with friends or alone. But with this seemingly simple concept Ms. Hewitt brings out in her photography the momentary arrangements and preoccupations of our lives. In Hewitt’s eyes, the tabletop is more than a tabletop – it is also a canvas.

In her first “Tabletop” photographs, Ms. Hewitt showed us the social interaction among friends amid the plates, napkins and the spilled wine on tables.

In her new photographs, Tabletops (Hope & Union Bakery 2004), Ms. Hewitt captures some of the more solitary moments of our New York lives, as we eat breakfast or lunch with a newspaper or book as our table companion. The photographs have a crisp artistic form conveyed in the juxtaposition of objects on the table.

But Ms. Hewitt noticed the full content of the pictures only when she began to review the photographs. “Different layers came out…I saw newspaper headlines emerging. All of a sudden my tabletops were dated political statements. This new theme that arose was, how people are ingesting the war, were learning about terrible acts of war, or news about the next election,” she said.

In one photograph there are three plastic containers with what appear to be coffee, chocolate and iced tea surrounding a smiling Bill Clinton on the cover of the New York Post. The Post headline reads, “It’s My Party”. It is perhaps a headline from this year’s Democratic National Convention. In the picture the former president is laughing, behind him is a stripe of vivid green. The tablecloth on the table in the picture somehow matches the green stripe behind Clinton on the Post cover.

Helen Jackson is a college student who frequently eats at the Hope and Union Bakery in Williamsburg where the photographs were taken and are being exhibited. Ms. Jackson said she usually plays scrabble or reads the paper while having coffee or a bite to eat. She liked the Clinton New York Post picture. “Yes, it’s so good,” she said as if evaluating the food at the cafe.

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