a late ’80s miscellany of artworks

by Alden Cole on March 13, 2017 · 0 comments

WorldIsn'tWPThe World Is Not Interested In The Storms You Encountered, But Did You Bring In The Ship? • gouache and acrylic on paper, 24″ x 18″ • collection of Bonnie Schorske, Philadelphia

1988: After I had been working for Roberts & Raymond Advertising Agency for a couple years, company president Bob Sulpizio approached me one day to ask if I’d be interested in submitting an idea for what would ultimately be a commission from one of his friends for a boat-portrait. Intrigued, I said I’d be glad to give it a shot. The only information supplied was that the boat in question was a three-masted sailing ship named Semper Verde – Always Green – and the gentleman’s rather lengthy motto was to be included in the work somehow. Hopeful for a free-lance gig, I quickly came up with the artwork seen above. My idea proved too conceptual however. When I finally saw the finished product that won the commission, I understood why I had lost out to another artist: a rather bland, standard portrait of a three-masted ship in full-sail, seen in profile, at sea against an idealized sky, with the motto engraved on a brass plate attached to the frame; a painting I never could have created. My disappointment was eventually turned to satisfaction when my friend Bonnie expressed her desire to own the painting. Thank you.

MetatronWP“It is written that the figure of a bird represents Metatron [the highest ranking angel]. His head is the letter ‘yod’ and the body is the letter ‘vav’ and the two wings are the two letters ‘hai’… his head symbolizes the intellectual aspects… whilst the two wings – fear and love – refer to the higher ‘hai’ which is love, and the lower ‘hai which is the lower fear… nevertheless they are called wings, for the consummation of love is the service out of love and love without service is a ‘love of delights’.”

ManIsMade...OriginalWP1987: my spiritual teacher whose interests are far ranging and not confined to any one tradition, suggested the above drawing to me shortly after I moved to Philadelphia, utilizing the Tetragrammaton (the Hebrew name of God transliterated in four letters as YHWH or JHVH and articulated as Yahweh or Jehovah). After its creation, he suggested another variation which had been revealed to him by a friend, Rabbi Zalman Schecter. At left is the first drawing I came up with in response to this challenge; this in turn was
ManisMadePosterWPfollowed by another drawing, seen at the lower left. This became the artwork for my third poster created for Conscious World Art since moving to Philadelphia – Man is Made in the Image of God – published in 1987, another 11″ x 14″ b&w poster on cream-colored card-stock (don’t be fooled by the stark white of the reproduction at left). Copies are still available from yours truly for only $10 a piece, mailed directly to you from 717 Federal Street in Philadelphia with my gratitude.

TearDowntheWallx2WPTear Down the Wall – Then & Now/1988 & 2017 • markers on clear acrylic and vellum tracing paper; each, 18″ x 9″ • collection of the artist. For full effect, read the arts from the bottom up.

What a difference thirty years makes! In 1988, as a result of the ‘inner self’ work I was doing by studying with my teacher, I came up with the left image above, inspired in large part by Pink Floyd’s The Wall, focused on a number of negative inputs I remembered from childhood and beyond, words that may not have broken my bones, but they hurt anyway. Just two weeks ago, I decided to develop an idea that had been formulated around the same time as the original, but never acted upon, beyond a simple pencil sketch. Now we have the two of them: the power of NO contrasted to the power of YES! Next, to enlarge these two images onto life-size panels followed by having the words – moving and ever changing – projected onto the panels, rather than being painted onto the surfaces, as indicated in these initial sketches.

TheTree&IWPThe Moon, the Sky, the Pine, and I • oil on linen, 24″ x 32″ • collection of Marge and Dewey Thompson, Wisconsin

At some point in the mid ’80s I painted this reverie on the power of solitude; a memory of my time living alone in Dayton, Maine – in the country where I had grown up, and where part of me longed to be – the fool living on the hill; while another part of me longed to escape the intense loneliness I had always experienced living in the country, by fleeing to the city. This life has been consistently typified by feelings of ‘wanting to be elsewhere”. To say the least, it’s been an interesting emotional juggling act…

Bosch'sDelightWPWhile Reading on Bosch Late One Summer Night • pencil on light-weight cardboard, 14.5″ x 44″ • collection of the artist

“…with monks “accidia” [sloth] took on the characteristics of the melancholia and paralysis of the will which all too often befall those pledged to the service of God. But in the everyday life of lay persons, it is of no less import, a kind of creeping timidity that makes it impossible to come to grips with even the most urgent and essential activities…Under the guise of deep study or meditation [Bosch’s depiction of sloth] masks nothing less than a flight from the normal problems of life…”

The quote above, inscribed at the bottom-center of the drawing shown, is from a book on the artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450s – 9 Aug 1516) by Carl Linfert – one of my favorite artists – which I read the summer of 1986, my first summer in Philadelphia, an interesting one to say the least, when I was feeling a little slothful myself. Inspired by Bosch’s work, I came up with the drawing above, rather an anomaly in my work, in terms of subject matter, as well as execution. I’ve always wanted to develop the idea into a full-color painting, which may yet happen, given “Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience.”

MordorWPMordor • pencil, markers, and oil paint on light-weight card-board, 14.5″ x 44″ • collection of the artist.

Loosely inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle, I started this drawing in pencil sometime in the summer of 1986, with the idea of turning it into an illustration on the grand scale. The drawing only progressed as far as the red outline stage, plus a bit of full color work. Finished, it would have taken its place in a portfolio of illustrations intended to launch my career as a children’s book illustrator, a portfolio that never materialized because I landed a full-time position working in an advertising agency, which totally refocused my energies, and ultimately made it possible to buy a home for myself.

ErikHansenZeroxPortraitWPErik: a portrait • collage of b&w photocopies mounted on foamcore, 30″ x 24″

1989: This was a total anomaly in my portraiture work, one made possible by having an office job with access to a photocopy machine. Fun and Games in the office, making enlargements of 4×6 color photographs, plus elements copied from “Monuments of Egypt: The Napoleonic Edition” published by Princeton Architectural Press, 1987.

1988Aug27-JEHportraitWP1988: Eric, a portrait • pencil on paper, 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ • collection of the aritst

“According to Pliny the Elder, portraiture began with the fear of lost love… all of art, was said to start with that moment of resistance to loss; the fixing of a fugitive vision… To make a portrait was to cheat abandonment; to close distance, triumph over separation, to turn absence into presence.”

quoted from Simon Schama’s excellent book The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation through Its Portraits published by Oxford University Press, 2016. A book which I finished reading last week, and is one of the most erudite and profound looks at portraiture that I have yet read by one of the great minds of my generation. A genuine learning experience and highly recommended!

ErikHansenWP1988: Erik – a portrait (unfinished) • oil on linen canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist. One of my early experiments in virtual monochrome which I decided not to develop beyond this stage due to the expressiveness of the simple forms.

1989?-RobertMayberryWP1991: Robert, a portrait • oil on canvas, 18″ x 18″ • collection of Robert Mayberry

The last of my attempts at painted portraiture done in the early years of living in Philadelphia. The individual portrayed was my partner in NYC from 1971-73. Although he moved to San Diego in 1974, we stayed in touch. He visited me in Philadelphia shortly after I moved into my home at 717 Federal Street in 1991, which is when I painted this portrait. Unfortunately I reworked the painting a few years later, after which I sent it to him in California. Unfortunately I neglected to photograph the altered version before letting it go. My memory is that the reworking was not to the benefit of the painting. Basta!

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