Epiphany Triptych: a brief history

by Alden Cole on January 4, 2016 · 0 comments

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years’.” – Henry Moore (30 Jul 1898 – 31 Aug 1986)

#1-Closed&OpenWPShortly after moving to Philadelphia in 1986, I started working on a series of idea sketches in my spare time (I had a free-lance gig in advertising that was virtually full-time), using pieces of coated cardboard measuring 15.5″ x 44″ as my substrate. The original function of these pieces of cardboard had been as dividers between layers of containers that were used in the dairy-farm business operated by my family. I’d saved a number of these sheets as a teenager working in the dairy factory, with the idea of drawing on them, and had been carrying them around for years, occasionally using one to create on. And so it was that sometime in 1987 I started sketching out some ideas on a new sheet, that took on the form of a triptych, one of my favorite formats with which I had experimented numerous times over the years. The medium chosen to put my ideas down quickly was magic marker, a medium which is notoriously color fugitive. But I didn’t care at the time; I was sketching fast and furiously, having a great time with brilliant color, focused on my great passion, the human form. “The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well.” – Horatio “Horace” Walpole (24 Sep 1717 – 2 Mar 1797)

#2Closed-OpenWPShortly after finishing the first triptych, I decided to try my hand at another. This time I shaped the top edge so that it came to a point. Don’t ask where the idea came from, I was just having a good time experimenting with new concepts based on ancient archetypes, and this particular whim proved worthy of the experiment.

Closed-OpenWPTriptych of the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil • markers on cardboard ca. 30″ x 28″ • collection of Omar Kabir

I don’t remember exactly when in the 90s I had the inspiration to tape the two productions together to form one large triptych approximately 30″ high by 28″ wide, but the idea stuck, becoming the basis for what is now a major project – in wood this time, not cardboard – measuring a substantial 54″ x 48″. The project has provided a wavering focus, off and on, for over a decade, since my neighbor and occasional collaborator on various projects, Rob Stauffer, cut the five parts that comprise the piece, out of 3/4″ prime-quality plywood.

Stage1.1WPI took my time preparing and priming the individual parts, finally commencing the actual painting in May of 2010 with the two top outer-doors, using oil paints. It took another three years before I returned to the project in early 2013, switching to acrylics to paint the bottom outer-doors. With both sets of doors completed, I attached them to the base with piano hinges. After searching intently throughout my home, I found an ideal spot in the kitchen where I was able to mount this large, heavy piece and still be able to work on it, by using a step stool to reach the upper sections. Once situated, I started drawing out my ideas in pencil on the interior. However I didn’t get very far with those sketches, before I ‘ran out of gas’ and put the project on hold once more in late-spring 2013. At Epiphany 2014, one of my resolutions was to get back to work on the project. See my 6 January 2014 posting for details of those ambitious plans:


Stage2&3WPDespite the best of intentions, I didn’t pick up on the project again until last October, almost two years after my New Year’s Resolution. A series of timely events – my successful show at The Watermark, a visit from friend and patron Omar Kabir from Germany – sparked the confidence and desire to start a major reworking of the interior. This time I was inspired to paint my ideas directly in monotone, experimenting with one of the most basic earth tones in the painter’s palette – raw umber – a color I’ve tended to avoid in the past as too dull. What a surprise to discover its glorious potential. I’m developing an understanding of the amazingly wide variety of color this one pigment can achieve with artful manipulation. Now that’s an education worth pursuing. Above on the left, the progress which I achieved during October’s reworking; on the right, the exciting developments since last Friday, 1 January 2016. The year is off to an excellent start. I’m especially pleased because I remember a time not so many years ago, when the pieces for this ambitious project had all been cut and prepared, but neither the spirit nor the flesh were particularly willing, or even interested, in pursuing the project any further. The thought crossed my mind that all my preliminary work had been for nought, and this particular project was never going to see the light of day. Glad I was wrong…

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

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