The Late ’80s: doing my own thing…

by Alden Cole on February 7, 2017 · 0 comments

1978-89:22x34WithTheseHandsWPWith These Hands • oil on canvas, 22″ x 34″ • started in NYC in 1978; finished in Philadelphia in 1989 • collection of Sharon Gold

Sharon Gold and I met through Roberts & Raymond Associates, in early 1987, shortly after R&R moved into its own office space at Arch and 22nd Streets in Philadelphia, moving away from its parent company Sulpizio Associates at St. James & 22nd, only a few blocks away, where I had been working since June ’86. My new daily destination was a beautifully renovated old building – a former womens prison – that had been remodeled into chic office spaces. Our new digs were in the basement with an atrium above our reception area; around the open center clustered four floors of offices that looked down into this area with just a receptionist’s desk and two couches. This spacious arrangement often conduced to the feeling of walking into the bottom of a fish-bowl when I first arrived in the morning.

1988-Sharon&ACWPOne day I arrived at work to discover there was a new receptionist sitting at the desk in the waiting area with its spacious view looking up into the atrium. In short order I learned that Sharon Gold was the new temp who had gotten this job through an employment agency, but her real passion was music, being a singer. I let her know I was an artist who understood her creative situation. We hit it off immediately, eventually becoming fast friends – lunch buddies. We were both fulfilling respective job descriptions that were the most easily replaceable in our fields, she in the administrative end, myself in the creative. But we both stayed on. Sharon was hired full-time first; within a relatively short time of starting work, because she was so efficient and she ‘gave great phone’ – an ideal voice for her position as receptionist answering the telephone. In person she was charming as well as beautiful, so she filled the position of dealing with clients perfectly. I on the other hand wasn’t offered a full-time position until I had been working at the agency for almost two years. She and I shared the laughter and frustrations of working together at R&R for almost a decade – from early 1987 to late 1996 when she moved to Hawaii. We both have tales of working with Madmen! And she will corroborate that indeed I was occasionally one of them!

SharonGoldCollectionWPThe Sharon Gold Collection, now residing in Hawaii. L-R: With These Hands (specs above); Tribute to Peter Max • oil on canvas, 40″ x 60″; Eye of G.D • oil on masonite panel, 48″ x 48″; Yin & Yang #3 • oil on canvas, 21″ x 35″

Sometime in early 1989 while visiting my apartment Sharon noticed a painting that I had recently brought out of storage for evaluation with an eye to reworking. She inquired about it with sincere interest, so I let her know that I didn’t consider the piece finished. She countered by saying that it was really beautiful as it was. I let her know that if she liked it as is, she was sure to love it once it was finished. I continued by saying that if she was truly interested, I would actively get back to work on it, bringing it to completion as planned, hoping that she would like the finishing changes. Next she inquired about how much $$ the painting would cost once finished, so I countered with a figure off the top of my head, probably a lower figure than I might have if the painting had actually been finished. I was excited and encouraged by the possibility that I might soon be selling a painting. And that’s exactly what happened within a relatively short time. That painting, seen at the top of this posting, was the first of my works that Sharon purchased; she became one of my first Philadelphia patrons. Over the new few years, she purchased three more works, all major pieces, seen above. These beauties traveled with her when she moved to the island of Hawaii in 1996, soon after Roberts & Raymond went out of business. I hear from her on occasion, letting me know how much she still enjoys living with these paintings, the two largest of which are anomalies in my oeuvre.

1987-ChessGame3WPChess Game #3 • oil on canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist

At around the same time as the completion of With These Hands, I was beginning to work on this smaller piece, based on the idea of cosmic chess – the interplay of the dualities of Fire and Water, Air and Earth, manipulating the elemental forces that create life, personifying them as beautiful figures. At one point my plan had been to populate the orange oval with a multitude of figures, male and female; but that plan has been shelved as I’ve grown to love the simplicity of that stark oval suggesting…? an infinity of possibilities! Is that just rationalization? or artistic wisdom?? Only the shadow knows for sure…

1987-2013:Sleeping2VersionsWPSleeping Entwined • oil on linen canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • started 1987; finished 2013 • collection of the artist

In the summer of 1987 while vacationing in Maine, I cajoled two of my friends in Wells to sit, or in this case lie down, for a depiction of intimacy that I had in mind, which resulted in the painting seen at the top of this image. Sometime in the early 2000s my most supportive Philadelphia patron Betsy Alexander purchased the painting for her mother Harriet, who lived with it until the year of her death, 2009, the same year as my own parents. Betsy, whose art collection is impressively large, offered me the painting instead of trying to incorporate it onto her own walls, and I accepted gratefully. In 2013, the DaVinci Art Alliance collaborated with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater in a showing of art inspired by Othello during the plays run of almost two months at the theater. Challenged to come up with a piece dealing with the play, presumably based on a particular scene or emotion evoked by Shakespeare’s poetic sense of drama, I came up with the idea of portraying what had been previously experienced by Othello and Desdemona in happier days, and what could have been if Othello had not been infected with Iago’s jealousy. So I decided to go back to this old painting and give it a face-lift by toning down the male with a dark tan to make him look more Othello-like. While I was at it, I made a few minor changes in the background and well as a little refreshing to the lady up front. I titled the work Othello and Desdemona: What Might Have Been. So successful was the illusion that this piece won a second-place award in the show. It was all in the eyes of the juror, the actor who played Othello, who interestingly was bald. That’s theater for you!

1987DinnerPartyPrepWP1987: Dinner Party Prep • pencil on linen canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist

At left, one of those artful drawings that never got painted; sketched fast to capture the fleeting moments of preparing food prior to a meal with friends, while vacationing in Wells, Maine. Making it up as I went along, which allowed me to turn my friend Diane into a geisha, and her husband Heinz into the man at the cutting board as well as at the stove. Their friend Barbara Yeager supplied the other figure at the cutting board. Will I ever paint this in color? doubtful, as the drawing has charms that would be lost under layers of paint. But as the inspiration for a new work of art? Why not?? Thanks for that encouragement Cathy L.

ThruFieldsOGoldWP1987: Through Fields of Gold • watercolor on paper, 5″ x 20″ • collection of the artist

1987-EveningSkyDaytonWP1987: Evening Sky, Dayton • oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″ • collection of Robin Hubbs

When I wasn’t working at a drawing board, either at the office or at home, I was often at the easel, painting reminiscences of back home in Maine, like the panoramic image above, or the colorful painting of a sunset at left. My first year in Philadelphia was fraught with times of tremendous home-sickness for the country. I was not particularly excited about Philadelphia as a city. After living in NYC, it felt provincial. I was here for a particular reason, to study for two years, after which I was going to high-tail it elsewhere – where that ‘elsewhere’ was going to be however, I was still clueless. I figured that time would reveal where next.

1988-1514S6thBackWindowWP1988: Back Window, Dusk • oil on linen canvas-board, 24″ x 18″ • collection of the artist

The city scape at left – unfinished – is a virtual anomaly, the only one I attempted before 2010. The view was looking west from my bedroom window on the second floor of the apartment building where I lived; 1514 S. 6th Street in Philadelphia, my ‘home-sweet-home’ for the first five years in this city. Yes, Philadelphia grew on me in time; I stayed here rather than moving on after two years, as I had thought I would. I started getting comfortable with myself, with who I was, as an eccentric solitary-yet-social being, in many ways for the first time in my life. So as I approached the end of my second year here in early 1988, I decided to stay for at least one more year. I had a good job, my social life was going okay, and I realized that there was no other particular place on the planet that I was burning to move to with the idea of possibly settling down. I realized I was already settled; why should I leave now?

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