1975-76: transforming b&w into color

by Alden Cole on April 30, 2015 · 1 comment

Flyer-ArtworkWP“He who binds to himself a joy, Does the winged life destroy. But he who kisses the joy as it flies, Lives in eternity’s sunrise.” – William Blake (1757-1827)

In the frenetic two-year period from October ’74 to September ’76 I was kissing a lot of joy on the fly, so to speak. The Weiser connection fortunately gave me enough grounding to survive; otherwise I might have floated away without ever being seen again… I had arrived back in Manhattan after four months in Maine, stayed briefly with friend Jean Hill, who had harbored me for almost a year prior to my sojourn in Maine. In November, through friendship with Tony Heyl, I moved into a resident hotel on the Upper West Side at 80th & Riverside Drive. The experience was a revelation: I learned how small a space I could actually live in and still be creative. Each room in the skinny 17-story hotel was approximately 6′ (yes, six feet) wide, by 10′ deep, with a single window, furnished with a cot-size bed, a small desk with chair, a small lavatory on the wall, and a trash can. There was a door to a toilet and shower room shared with the ‘apartment’ next door. I first lived there from November ’74 until February ’75 when I moved into friend Alexis Blasini’s apartment while he was in Puerto Rico for a few months.

BaptismPlusWP“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” – Goethe (1749-1832)

Joining me that late winter, first in my tiny 6′ x 10′ room in the hotel, then in Alexis’ eccentrically-decorated apartment on the ground floor at 340 W. 89th Street was ex-partner Robert Mayberry with whom I had lived from ’71-’73 in Manhattan. He and I had shared an apartment on the third floor of the same building as Alexis for a year before we moved into bigger digs at 72nd and Riverside, where we lived for a year before he headed west, first to IU Bloomington to study orchestral conducting, then on to San Diego to study with composer Harry Partch, who died shortly after he moved there. Footloose and fancy-free himself, he journeyed east from California via the Hare Krishnas as one of their roving musicians recruiting for the cult from city-to-city coast-to-coast. We tried to make a ‘go’ of it as partners again, without success. After a two-month trial reunion, he returned to San Diego, where he’s been ever since.

3Drawings1974WP“Everyone has talent; what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” – Erica Jong (1942- )

Thereafter began my wandering, promiscuous years searching for Mr. Right, another unsuccessful search which took me down some dark alleys, and occupied way too much of my time and psychic energy. Sometimes it seemed like fun; more often it was lonely and scary. Somehow I survived myself, and despite it all, found the time, and the space in the small rooms I often inhabited, to make art. As well as book covers created for Weisers, I was making a lot of art on paper for myself. Reflective of my artistic growth were the occasional pieces created gratis for friend Harold Stover’s concert series at Second Presbyterian Church at 96th and Central Park West. With those pieces I was given room to experiment, which I took advantage of, creating artwork and calligraphy for thirty-six experimental 8-1/2″ x 11″ advertising flyers for a 7-year period, from ’73 to ’80. Printed black on ‘goldenrod’ paper, a number of these have been featured in past postings; two of them head this one, plus the finished products post my colorizing the original b&w ink drawings.

2ColorSketches1974WP“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

In March Robert returned to San Diego, Alexis returned from San Juan, and I moved back into the Riverside Hotel. This time however I ascended from a room on the 4th floor facing the facade of another building across 80th Street, to a room on the 16th floor with a single window overlooking Riverside Drive, and Riverside Park, with the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson, visible just to the left – a bird’s eye view. Friend Tony Heyl whom I had met years before through his sister Fran who was also a fashion illustrator, lived in the room next door. We developed a wonderful friendship that’s lasted years, sharing smokes, many jokes and times of good cheer, runimating about life and art and process. An artist himself – a fine sculptor, jeweler and silversmith – Tony’s work is available through his shop in Boothbay Harbor, Maine – A Silver Lining, also known as The Maine Bracelet Company, for reasons you’ll discover if you explore his site: http://www.asilverlining.com/
Got Lobsta??

RevelationEye“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” – Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969)

My emotional involvements that spring-summer-fall of 75 were conflicted and complex. Not only was I ‘torn between two lovers’ I was discovering the insatiability for sexual experience that often grips gay men in their early 30s when the world seems their oyster, and they can’t get enough – as it seemed in the late 60s into the 70s before the onslaught of AIDS. Oy vey! My blond nordic nature was drawn to and found response in darker types: Italians, Latinos, Blacks (before African-American became the term). I was searching intently and intensely for a new partner, but with unrealistic expectations based on unrealistic desires, which I’ve only understood recently in retrospect. I, Alden Cole, country boy, went to New York City to find another country boy (if not ‘in fact,’ at least ‘in heart’) who wanted to move back to the country with me and set up housekeeping in Dayton, Maine, right next to my parents. At least, part of the time. The rest we’d spend in NYC being ‘fabulous.’ Is it any wonder I never found such a match?

EnlighteningWP“We do not really change over time; we are as flowers unfolding; we merely become more nearly ourselves.” – Anne Rice (1941- )

My favorite tool is a pencil. Always has been. Colored pencils, especially when compared with the blunt points of crayons, were a God send. I bought my first set of PrismaColor pencils freshman year at RISD, and they continued to be a tool of regular choice into the 70s, and beyond. The two works at left, as well as several above, reveal my penchant for drawing with them on colored paper. There are lines that can be drawn with a pencil – colored or not – that no brush can match in subtlety. That’s the reason I continue to use them often, despite my explorations with the brush using a variety of mediums: watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil. With a lot of work on paper, I have used an under-painting using a water-based pigment, over which I’ve brought out certain highlights with lighter-toned pencils, as seen in these two pieces: Enlightening and The Secret Life of Plants. Both these works and all the others in this posting (with one exception) are ‘missing in action,’ i.e. Provenance Unknown. I have no idea where they are, to whom I gave them, or even whether they still exist. I do know that not one of them sold for money at the time; undeterred, I just kept making them and giving them away… being only partially crazy.

CosmicExpansionContractionWP“The value of the dwelling is in the dweller.” – traditional

The two-year period about which I write – my 31st and 32nd years – was fraught with moving frequently – the peregrinations of a desperate soul. In early July after three months in the Riverside Hotel, I moved temporarily to 96th and West End Avenue, apartment-sitting for Elizabeth Lamkin and David Griffith while they were singing in Europe for six weeks that summer. Thus I got to live with the Murphy-bed mural I had created for them a year or so before; while there I even extended the mural onto the inside of the cabinet doors that enclosed the bed. For the last two weeks of August I apartment-sat for Harold Stover who was in western Pennsylvania for the summer. In September, I moved again to Greenwich Village, kindly being housed by friend Jean Hill for three more months, while I prepared for my first and only NYC solo show of art in October. More on that in a future posting. During the first two weeks of December I once again apartment-sat for the Griffiths, before jetting off to California for two weeks over the Christmas/New Year holidays to visit Robert Mayberry and do a little California dreaming.

InfusionRevelationWP“Hold God dear, and be high-hearted.”

1976, the year the USA celebrated its bicentennial year, proved to be an even more tumultuous year than ’75 for me personally. I tried one more time to share my life with a live-in partner, but the less-than-ideal results soured me on looking for a new lover thereafter, and instead I started focusing on being single and learning to enjoy the freedom, although at the time it seemed like “nothing left to lose.”
To be continued…


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sharon April 30, 2015 at 4:45 am

Wowwy, Wowwy, Wow, Wow, Wow! More in private…


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