1978 – my watershed year: Part 1

by Alden Cole on August 29, 2015 · 0 comments

“The great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of an artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event. I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have no thought of consequences. Anyone who creates for effect — to score a hit — does not know what he is missing!”
– N.C. Wyeth (22 Oct 1882 – 19 Oct 1945), in a letter to his son Andrew Wyeth in 1944, year of my birth.

LifeAmongTheTreesWPMy Life Among the Trees • oil on canvas 36″ x 24″ • started in 1978; last reworked in the 80s • collection of Omar Kabir, Munich, Germany.

I don’t remember a lot of mundane details about 1978, but I remember well the high points of an intensely packed year that included working on the painting at left, and wound down by giving me a new lease on life, after nearly loosing my life in Riverside Park, where I was up to no good one night the weekend right before Thanksgiving. I’ll get to that grisly story eventually, but for now I’d like to focus on the earlier part of the year which was happier, more productive. It included spending much of the month of June in Santa Fe, New Mexico with friends where I turned 34 years of age; plus about a week in Denver with other friends before driving east. In the fall I traveled west again, spending the month of October plus the first week of November at a commune in the high desert of central-eastern Nevada just across the Utah border, close to no where; a commune simply named Home Farm. All in all, it was a year of wandering and restless searching that proved that there are searchers and there are finders, and I was definitely a searcher that year, trying to find a locale where the usual me that I was familiar with didn’t exist. “No matter where you go, there you are.”? I was not about to admit the truth of that adage quite yet, so I searched in vain until I was brought up very short, and finally ‘got’ it in time to survive my more self-destructive tendencies, and move on to higher ground.

Rapture2versionsWP“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
– Leonardo da Vinci (15 Apr 1452 – 2 May 1519)

If memory holds true, the rather monochromatic color sketch featured above at left, along with the book-cover artwork for Practical Astral Projection, published by Samuel Weiser Inc. were both created the spring of ’78. Flying couples were not a new motif in my art, going back to early 1974 with an early sketch for a mural. Certain themes prove obsessive, and this one was no exception. What was truly interesting was to finally figure out just a few years ago that the motivating idea behind all these flying bodies was RAPTURE. Although the Advent Christian Protestant sect in which I was raised didn’t believe in the Rapture per se, as envisioned by some other Protestant sects, the idea of such a wondrous happening captivated my childish imagination when I first encountered the idea in church. How very Peter Pan to imagine being weightless, with an ability to fly like the birds. No wonder my Gemini air-nature responded to these possibilities, and made art out of such an unrealistic desire, since the real deal was to be forever denied me as a human being. To be continued…

Rapture1WP“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his[her] personal vision of the world. No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination. One of the weaknesses of much abstract painting is the attempt to substitute the inventions of the intellect for a pristine imaginative conception. The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form, and design. The term ‘life’ as used in art is something not to be held in contempt, for it implies all of existence, and the province of art is to react to it and not to shun it. Painting will have to deal more fully and less obliquely with life and nature’s phenomena before it can again become great.”
– Edward Hopper (22 July 1882 – 15 May 1967)

1721.1WP“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.”
– J.M. Barrie (9 May 1860 – 19 Jun 1937)

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