In Search of Togetherness in a new Millennium

by Alden Cole on September 6, 2017 · 0 comments

“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.” – John Wooden (14 Oct 1910 – 4 Jun 2010)

It’s All About Choices #4 • oil on linen, 16″ x 20″ in Aldenized frame 25″ x 29″ • collection of the artist

The year 2004 occasioned passage into my 6th decade, marked by a number of choices, challenges, and conflicts of interest that made for rather intense living. The transition pointed out how the search for partnership is never-ending. As I looked at my emotional involvements since moving to Philadelphia in 1986, and particularly since the late 90s, various patterns emerged which made me more aware of who I have become in the course of a lifetime. Considering the various men who have caught my eye, and stolen pieces of my heart over the years, I could write a chapbook of poetic endearments dedicated to those men of my life, starting with my dad, and coming right down to the present.

2004: “Together” aka “Warm-Heartedness” – oil on canvas, 16″ x 12″ – collection of Dan Martin & Michael Biello

At left, my depiction of what I perceive as the Great Desire of gay life; fulfilled in real life for many men in our tolerant culture. For myself, that desire has remained unfulfilled in real terms, realized only on canvas. How much this is a result of strict religious indoctrination in fundamentalist Christianity with its focus on sexual prohibitions, only the Shadow knows…

Interesting coincidences: in 1997 I met the first of four men, all heterosexual, with whom I fell in limerence, and with whom I have formed close friendships in time. They were all born in 1969, the year I turned twenty-five, my first full year living on my own in NYC. By 2004 I met the last of that quartet of younger men – surrogate sons almost – who have played major roles in my life, and continue to do so.

What Can I Do? • oils on masonite panel, 10″ x 13″ • collection of the artist • started 1/27/2005 as a visual-with-text painting. In 2012 I revamped the panel, eliminating text and adding color that made it a totally different painting

The first three men, met in 1997, 2000, and 2002, represented the three earth signs of the zodiac. WB, met in 1997, is a Virgo, the mutable, analytical earth sign, married with children. EC, met in 2000, is the Taurus of the group, the fixed, straight-forward earth sign who was my painting model for two years until 2002; he was temporarily unattached, and we had an interestingly intimate relationship. FB, met in 2002, is the Capricorn, the cardinal, power-oriented earth sign, also married, now with children. In the fall of 2004, I met OK, the Aquarian of the group – the unmarried expansive idealist – who stimulated the most intense periods of self-introspection and painfully-arrived-at understandings of emotional complexities, that I had yet experienced. Archetypal reminders of the vicissitudes of our collective unconscious and trying to relate!

2005: Embrace Me (My Sweet Embraceable You) • oil on plywood panel, 12″ x 12″, mounted on repurposed cabinet door 15″ x 15″ • collection of the artist

In the spring of 2005, when a company went out of business that made scenics for theater and fabricated items for trade shows, I scored a number of items perfect for repurposing, including a stack of over
twenty 12″ x 12″ x 1/4″ thick plywood panels. They had been used as test panels to experiment with colors and motifs. By summer I was already at work transforming a number of those panels into paintings, including the two paintings seen here.

Talk To Me • oil on plywood panel, 12″ x 12″; extensively reworked in 2012 • collection of the artist

Both these arts went through major revisions as you can see by the photo at left showing both paintings before changes. The first was revised by the end of the same year I started it – 2005 – but the second, also stated that summer, didn’t arrive at its present state until seven years later, 2012, when I took what seemed a lack-luster painting and made it sparkle.

Face 2 Face, numbers 1-3 • oil on linen canvas-board, 6″ x 6″ • collection of the artist

2005 was an awesome year. In June, just before turning 61, I flew to India with a talented jazz trumpet player twenty-five years my junior, who had courted my friendship, after visiting my studio open-house during POST weekend (Philadelphia Open Studio Tour) October 2004. Impressed with my
work as an artist, he came back to take a better look. A friendship budded. I wanted his body, but he wasn’t giving; he wanted my art, so I began to let some pieces go for virtually nothing. Hope springs eternal. Actually I wanted more than his body; I wanted to trade places with him. I wanted to be young, handsome, rich, talented, intelligent as well as a Don Juan; which is how I
perceived him to be. We developed an interesting relationship in the two years we saw a lot of each other, before he sold his properties in the USA, and moved permanently to Munich, Germany.

After we had known each other for about nine months, I was invited to accompany him to India, where we spent the better part of the middle two weeks of June in Gopalpur-on-sea, a tiny coastal town on the Bay of Bengal, midway between Chenai (former Madras) in the south where we had landed, and Kolkata (former Calcutta) in the north. Our purpose in being there was to take a look at the ruins of a former grand house, of which my friend had inherited one sixth. Experiencing India is beyond verbal description, so I won’t even try. The paintings directly inspired by the trip abroad to such an exotic land are still scanty, though ideas still persist, calling for eventual realization. Plus I have some spectacular photographs as evidence of this experience that was a turning point in my life.

Tenderness, numbers 1-3 • oil on linen canvas-board, 6″ x 6″ • #1, collection of Omar Kabir * #2 & #3. collection of the artist

During 2005, my primary creative focus was not on painting; it was elsewhere – making and selling lamps, plus spending as much time as I could with my latest infatuation. However, the frustration of an unsatisfied desire did encourage the
sublimation of energy into a few small oil paintings, including two series of three each, shown above and below. The first series was devoted to profiles revealing states of consciousness – imagined and observed. The second was devoted to the theme of tenderness; which was a quality I was seeking, not only in the outside world through relationship with friends, as well as the hopes for a significant other; but
more importantly, working to actualize that quality in myself. I’m finding that to be a life-long work, marked by varying degrees of success. First and foremost, that tenderness of heart has to manifest toward our selves, forgiving ourselves for not being perfect, which was made into an impossible aspiration in my childhood, through that fear-inducing Biblical injunction: “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” It has been very interesting to develop an understanding of the role of personal mythology as engendered by social mythology, in formulating our personalities.

A Helping Hand • oil on linen canvas-board, 6″ x 6″ • collection of Carla Liguori.

This proved to be the last of the small works inspired by my friendship with OK, that was based on a sculptural group that sits at the corner of Riverside Drive & 113th Street in Manhattan. Started in 2005, like some of the larger square panels above, this one was extensively revised in 2012.

Clownin’ Around • oil on linen canvas-board, 24″ x 18″ • collection of the artist

In 2005, inspired by a crayon drawing done at age eight on 9″ x 12″ construction paper, I decided to try my hand at a popular old genre – Clown Painting – the one and only time I’ve chosen to explore that weird realm as a mature artist. Basing my composition pretty literally on the crayon drawing from childhood, I came up with the following rather bizarre update that would make a great Halloween spook.

I still haven’t gotten around to revealing what I figured out early in the new millennium that I wanted to be when I grew up, but it has something to do with massage being the medium.

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