Looking back to 2008 – Part 1: Inner Nature

by Alden Cole on January 23, 2018 · 0 comments

“Piece of my Heart” • oils on linen canvas-board 24″ x 18″, in Aldenized frame 27″ x 21″ • As indicated in my previous posting of over a month ago, 2008 was a watershed year, when I turned that age made famous for my generation by Paul McCartney in his winsomely youthful “Will you still love me when I’m 64?” It was a year that saw my creativity expand into painting ‘plein air’ for the first time in over two decades, trying to capture the landscape around me – Outer Nature – via expeditions to Bartram’s Garden in West Philadelphia and elsewhere. These explorations were in addition to my consistent and abiding interest in illustrating Inner Nature, telling visual stories and thereby learning to laugh at myself through the medium of paint. It was another year of fulfilling my early motto of “Shock them, offend them if you must, but get them to pay attention.” The painting above was an example of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ wearing my heart on my sleeve, trying to express the vicissitudes of a disappointing love life, combined with the understanding developed over several decades of observation, turning heartbreak into poetry, inspired by that classic roll’n’roll lyric “Take Another Little PIece of my Heart Now Baby” by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, and made particularly famous for my generation through the rendition of Janis Joplin.

“IBU” (acronym for Inward Bound University) aka “The Tragedy of Othello” • oils on plywood panels, each 12″ x 12″ • mounted on a larger panel measuring 17″ x 69″ • collection of Cassie Vega-Ramirez.

Created in the spring of 2008 for a DaVinci Art Alliance collaboration with the Lantern Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello, the composition was based on a detail from an idea first drawn with markers in the early 1990s on thin cardboard measuring 6″ x 21″ seen below.

The idea behind the visuals was this: “I can be angry; I can be blue; I can be blissed out. The choice is my responsibility. Regardless of those choices, I’m gonna be dead someday. GET IT! so what choices shall I make in the interim? It’s up to me.” The interesting story behind it’s creation is that the size restrictions for the art show were 36″ x 36″ maximum, with two pieces allowed. The piece I envisioned was way larger in width than those restrictions; however it was still smaller in terms of square inches used of wall space. With that as the rationale I was able to convince the curators to allow the entry of my artwork, which was in process of evolving at the time, thank you Deb & Dave. The Othello connection was this: Angry Iago, Blue Othello, Blissfully Innocent Desdemona, all three of them wind up dead by the end of the play, pointing up the tragedy of envy and blind jealousy. As far as the Student Lounge reference, IBU is an acronym for Inward Bound University, coined by a friend to describe what my apartment had become – a type of student lounge for several others students who lived in our ‘dorm’ which was right across 6th street from my friend JMH, whom I had moved to Philadelphia to study with in 1986. My world was changing thirty years ago, and I was becoming a much more social guy open to the blessings of the universe.

“Growing Up With Draja Mickaharic” • Original marker drawing on paper ca. 12″ x 9″ • collection of Josh Simon

In the summer of 2008 another student of our teacher asked me to design a book cover for a small volume he was planning to self-publish, describing his own spiritual journey with our friend and teacher JMH. At left, the original artwork; below left, how it was used. This was the last of the many book-covers I designed over the years, starting in 1975. The idea behind the visual was
based on a diagram we had studied revealing simplistically the relationship between the four major aspects of the SELF. Working their way up from the base of the drawing are representations of the Animal Body (the Physical self) becoming the Inner Self (the Emotional self) becoming the Outer Self (the Intellectual self) becoming the Divine Self (the Observer beyond verbal explanation). My fellow student loved the concept I came up with, as well as its execution. Applause to my ears.


“Arcadian Dreams” #2 • oils on linen attached to plywood panel, 8″ x 36″ • This was one of the first painting projects of the new year 2008; based on a small drawing on vellum tracing paper done in pencil with markers, that went back to the early 1980s while living in Portsmouth, NH. This apocalyptically colored version in turn stimulated its antithesis in the version seen below, which became the center-panel of an ambitious furniture piece.

“Arcadian Dreams” #3 • oils on 9″ x 44″ walnut panel. Seen at left as a panel painting; then as part of an
antique walnut headboard 51″ x 56″ that was originally part of a bedroom suite that included the bedstead, a bureau, a commode, and a plant stand which I inherited from my grandmother Edeth Belle Waterhouse Cole when she died a few months short of her 99th birthday in 1979, while I was still living in NYC. I was not able to claim the suite until twelve years later when I moved into my present home in Philadelphia. Although the bedstead was set up for a few years, the bed eventually collapsed under guests who were visiting from New Hampshire, so the bed got retired and became the basis of art instead of sleeping.

“Dancing Green Man” • oils on plywood panel 12″ x 12″ mounted on repurposed cabinet door, 15″ x 15″. Occasionally I turn the tables on the usual way of presenting artwork by painting the piece to hang on the diagonal, such as the artwork at left, one of the few pieces done in that manner. This particular painting is inspired by various sacred iconographies both Western and Eastern, including various aspects of the Hindu mythology surrounding concepts of Shiva, the Destroyer of Life – one of the sacred trinity that includes Brahma the Creator, and Vishnu the Maintainer of Life.

“Great Balls of Fire” • oils on plywood panel 12″ x 12″ mounted on repurposed cabinet door 15″ x 15″ * collection of Anne Ostroff • Although I spend very little time making art to express ‘the dark side’ of my psyche, occasionally it’s good to explore those less-frequently examined areas; a little art therapy for taking a creative look at anger and learning to understand its power and control its manifestations. The painting above was a highly-developed piece which took hours of tedious painting of details, based on a more simplified drawing on paper, dating back to the ’90s.

“Devas” aka “I Sing the Body Electric” (thank you Walt Whitman) • oils on plywood panel 12″ x 12″ mounted on repurposed stretcher bars 15″ x 15″ • This painting from the spring of 2008 was one of the few paintings that emerged directly from my experience of India in 2005. Some ideas percolate more slowly than others before they see the light of day.

“Face to Face” #4 • oils on plywood panel 12″ x 12″ mounted on repurposed cabinet door 15″ x 15″ • Painted sometime in the fall of 2008, this painting was one more attempt to portray that kiss suggesting an experience of the cosmic which I’ve been enamored of since I was a child, and which has been a recurring refrain throughout my oeuvre from the beginning.

“Face to Face” #2 aka “Peek-a-boo” • oils on plywood panel 12″ x 12″ mounted on repurposed cabinet door. Ultimately this is an homage to some of the more intimate, less-known painting of 20th century artist George Tooker (5 Aug 1920 – 27 Mar 2011) whose art has been a great inspiration to my own over the years since first encountering his work in the 70s while living in NYC.

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