1978 – the watershed year: Part 2 — more rapture; more unfinished business

by Alden Cole on September 3, 2015 · 0 comments

“Life… is not simply a series of exciting new ventures. The future is not always a whole new ball game. There tends to be unfinished business. One trails all sorts of things around with one, things that simply won’t be got rid of…” – Anita Brookner (16 Jul 1938 – )

WithTheseHandsWPWith These Hands • oil on canvas 22″ x 34″ • started in 1978, finished in 1991 • collection of Sharon Gold, Hilo, Hawaii

1978 was a great year for starting projects; some of them were finished up in short order. Others dragged on for a year or two, even longer sometimes, depending on my personal commitment to the project. Some ideas and partially completed paintings held my attention better than others. The painting featured above was actually started in the spring of 1978, but a number of factors retarded progress for over a decade; it wasn’t until 1991 that I brought it all together; even signing it, which is the final touch saying Basta! In this endeavor I was encouraged by friend Sharon Gold, who had the vision to see in an unfinished work of art the glory that lay awaiting to be manifested; and who in the process became a patron of the arts, or at least of my own. Thanks Sharon.

“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.” – Christina Rossetti (5 Dec 1830 – 29 Dec 1894)

TrinitySeekers:800Trinity Seekers • oil on canvas-board 36″ x 24″ • started spring ’78, last reworked early ’80s • collection of the artist

1978 was a year of gravitating away from working on paper as my primary substrate, to working on panel, either wood or masonite, as well as stretched canvas, and even canvasboard. I was still designing book covers for Samuel Weiser Inc. to keep a roof over my head, while continuing to experiment in my own work with both media and subject matter. It was also a year when an unstable financial situation forced me to seek part-time employment. Don Weiser generously offered a job to tide me over the difficult winter months; but instead of working up front in the office as I had before, typing invoices, I worked in back, packing books for distribution, destined to be mailed all over the globe, including Philadelphia’s own Garland of Letters. In the process I got to know one of New York’s more eccentric couples – former Hell’s Angel Donald Applebee and his girlfriend Marion. How fascinating it would be to replay some of the amazing conversations that took place while we three gathered books and packed them at our large-tabled work station in the warehouse area just behind the business office. We were up on the fifth floor of a multi-story office building located at the corner of Houston and Broadway, just north of the Soho district, which was emerging as the ‘next’ major art mart of the time, as fashionable galleries moved south in Manhattan, seeking cheaper rents.

SeasonMandalaWPMandala of the Seasons • oil on illustration board, 26″ diameter • started spring ’78, last reworked late 80s • collection of the artist

The unfinished piece at left was inspired by reflections on “turning towards” • “turning away from” • “turning inward” • “turning outward” that form the crux of relationship – both external with others and internal with ourselves – and how that inter-relating co-relates to seasonal cycles. Make sense? Not really sure when I started this one, because, unlike many artists who maintain careful records of when pieces were started and finished, I approached my productivity rather casually, without much forethought of a time when I might want the information that such a record would have supplied, when I wanted it years hence. I was constantly working on new ideas and putting them aside. Good that I at least kept a fairly complete visual record via 35mm transparencies, many of which were annotated with dates; otherwise I would be at even more of a loss for writing about where and when all these works appeared.

YinYang3WPYin/Yang #3 • colored pencil on black paper, 23″ diameter • collection of Keith and Sue Robb

“The heart of a human being is no different from the soul of heaven and earth. In your practice always keep in your thoughts the interaction of heaven and earth, water and fire, yin and yang.”
– Morihei Ueshiba (14 Dec 1883 – 26 Apr 1969)

The piece immediately above goes back a bit earlier than the three others featured in this posting; probably to the year 1977, when I was still doing a lot of work on paper, and with colored pencil. But similar themes are at work here as well. Rapture, both as physically experienced and mentally projected, played a great part in much of my early work; evidence of the power of imagination and early imprinting with supernatural concepts – bodies defying gravity and flying without wings.

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