Notes
04/13/2016

3/29/16

Photo: Box Elder Bug on a painting

It is the difference between observing and noticing that makes for everyday poetry.  In the mode of observation we absorb the world around us being more or less astute.  This is the eating and digestion of our surroundings while noticing accounts for flavor.  The face of one noticing flexes and reveals the churning of mental gears.  Noticing engages the novelty of a scene and starts asking questions that determine quality and significance.  Read more…

1/10/2015

Photo: Lake Swim by Alex Cohen

In Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film, Dreams, there is a scenario in which a museum-goer, staring thoughtfully at a Van Gogh painting, puts on his cap, tucks his kit under his arm and steps intrepidly into the painting.  This fantastical cinematic rendering sprouts from the uncanny feeling that paintings contain separate worlds.   Would that they were, says the voice of childlike curiosity in the background of our intellect, I should like to cross over into them, not just in mind but bodily!  This simple wish is a shared irrational desire teased by the illusion of depth conjured in painting. Read more…

12/10/2015

[Photo: Antioch mosaic at the Worcester Art Museum with clown by Honoré Daumier]

I was visiting the Worcester Art Museum for the first time—a robust hill of cut stone harboring an impressive collection.  My artistic antennae were bristling and I was feeling fully receptive as I jauntily sprung indoors.  The museum radiates into troves of worldly treasure from a central skylit courtyard, hemmed by a renaissance colonnade.  Cordoned off in the middle of this courtyard is a lavish Antioch mosaic, and on the day I was present, a black scaffold of sound equipment was being erected suspiciously to the flank of this ancient masterpiece.  Read more…

11/10/2015

[Image: Max Beckmann’s “Self Portrait with Fish” with reflection through my glasses.]

Few are the observers who pause to daub mud on their spectacles, or squeeze lemon pulp in their eyes before taking a second look.  Vision is largely a device to orient ourselves in space, therefore it is something we define and improve with clarity.   Regard a freshly hatched baby, softly twitching with a stunned impression.  For this creature the eyes are great vacuums, indiscriminately sucking up everything in the vicinity.  The game at this stage is merely trying to cleave that vast amount of visual information into this and that.  It is a great success for this baby to discern daddy from the wallpaper behind him.  Yet from this earliest struggle with the visual world onward we are continually working from general to specific, clarifying. Read more…

9/15/2015

[image: Landscape by Giorgio Morandi]

While much of the world entertained itself with modernization through the horrors of war and the wonders of innovation, the early 20th century Italian painter Giorgio Morandi mastered the act of observation.  His interest was the unnamable relationships found in simple form-based still life and landscape.  He never left Italy, rarely even stepped foot from Bolonga, yet he was enthralled by Cezanne and Rembrandt.  Similarly, rather than pilgrimage into the landscape he often used a telescope to bring the landscape to him.  In this way his landscapes could be viewed as his still lifes; built and arranged.    Read more…

 

6/23/15

After a day of image-making, image-filled thinking, and wandering an image-filled world, I prefer retiring in the evening to an image-free environment.  At least within the field of view that I have lying in bed, I want to see no man-made image.  My walls and ceiling are unpainted pine boards, browned with age and animated with the constellations of knots staring down at me like so many feral eyes.  Only a small, square window interrupts the wall opposite my bed.  It is just above head height and looks out westward on an airplane-shaped weathervane that sits atop the garage below.  Read more…

06/15/2015

5/26/15
New Hope Arts has asked me to curate an exhibition of emerging artists in their twenties and thirties.  The term “emerging artist”, used to classify a stage in a creative career, is often presumed as an interchangeable descriptor of youth.  Of course, many young artists have advanced in their professional lives and many older artists have yet to find their entrance.  The vague notion of injecting fresh blood into the system or showing off the next hot thing didn’t satisfy me, but I was curious to reexamine the notion of emergence as it hovers over this age bracket.  It is, after all, the age bracket in which I temporarily fall as an artist myself.

Emergence in relation to the art market is a consideration of what’s in vogue, but as it concerns the artist, emergence is instead a translation from one life to another, not of advancing along a path.  This is the translation of the private experience of making art to the public experience of showing art.  As much as many artists commit great hope and effort into finding an audience for their work, they spend as much time trying to cultivate, protect and indulge in their privacy.  The time of so-called emergence is one in which, above all, the artist is navigating and negotiating the private and public experiences of their artwork.  There is a shock, sometimes invigorating and sometimes unsettling, that comes with the exposition of one’s most intimate endeavors.  The exhibition at New Hope Arts is composed of work that in one way or another feels particularly demonstrative of the transition between the private and public spheres, as experienced by the artists themselves.

Topically, privacy is linked to existential anxiety.  Revelations of government spy programs and hacking attacks have recently highlighted the collateral damage from extending our lives into virtual formats.  In that online world the footprint of our persona and the access to it have been increased.  Privacy is most recognizable when it is being invaded and hence no longer being private.  Even being aware of our own moments of privacy is a sort of invasion that breaks the spell.  Privacy is the space, experiences and things with which we identify and around which we build fences to keep from being spoiled.  Reciprocally every fence denotes value of something within and provokes our curiosity.  Fences are a source of worry—that we can’t cross over the fences of others and that others might cross over ours.  It is easier to worry about the form of privacy than the content, because form is easier to define.

The content of privacy is a slippery sense of first-hand self.  It is the mental place in which we are most disentangled from the responsibility of a public persona and most engaged in individual experience.  It is paradoxical to suggest that individual experience can be communicated authentically but in artwork the evidence of privacy is greatest.  It is there that we can find the residue of internal vision cultivated in private.  The catlike ambivalence of artwork to its audience protects the privacy that the artist his or her self cannot alone defend.

True privacy is solitary—a cocoon of idiosyncrasy.  But sensations arise in the joys and sorrows of privacy that can be too big for one person alone to hold.  The urge to share privacy, to share the sense of self is a profound gamble and perhaps the most human act of all.  For in the fight against the cosmic lonesomeness we will risk giving up a bit of our selves for the possibility that some response will confirm our existence.  Heartbreak occurs when we allow someone inside the fence who does not recognize our private self.  When a connection is found though, it expands the limits of the self and creates meaning.  It is why we fall in love, search for life beyond our planet, explore the unknown, and why we make and exhibit art.  Privacy, whence shared, becomes intimacy.  Therefor the greatest hope for artwork that is spawned in private exploration, is for it to have an intimate quality when brought into the public eye.

Ideally I wanted to put on an exhibition examining privacy in its least corrupted form, made up of artists so removed from public view that they would be virtually undiscoverable.  Since I didn’t have the fortitude to go prying open suspicious broom closets or go bushwhacking through jungle to find such clinically reclusive subjects, I looked for artists whose emergent visions from that internal place of privacy felt most intimate.  As with any exhibition the curtain is pulled aside to shine light on creative novelties, but in this case hopefully light is also shone on the curtain itself and raises the question, what does art look like before an audience sees it and what becomes of it after.

 

Privacy Made Public will be on view at New Hope Arts Center from May 30th to June 21st with an opening May 30th from 6 to 9.  More information at newhopearts.org

4/21/15
An illustration by Edward Gorey hangs in my studio depicting two gentlemen at an open-air market with the description, “Haggling over a small black painting on the hunch that it’s a Chardin”.   Next to that, by chance is the only piece of artwork I have who’s creator had any widespread notoriety and yet it isn’t worth a penny and looks like nothing more than a bedraggled piece of parchment, which it is. Read more…

2/4/15
A digital phenomenon swept the news feeds of Facebook recently.  I’m not sure where this meme began, but it has been affecting the arts community like a kindergarten in cold season.  An artist is nominated by another artist to share three examples of his or her work each day for five days and selecting another artist to do the same.  This is the latest intrigue in a developing cult of social network art sharing.  Read more…

12/20/14
The transitioning of years tends to be a time of reflection, to take stock of our trajectories, both collective and individual.  We all agree to blink hard and punctuate the ceaseless orbit of the earth with a tip of our hat to time itself.  What sort of year did we just pass through and where are we headed in the next?  The summation of a year is a strange flavor to relate.  We attempt such an appraisal with best-of lists and reviews of the landmark events in our news cycle. We try with these opportunities to glimpse the cultural center and estimate our relevance to it. Read more…

11/7/14
It’s generally recognized for athletes that warming up before serious exertion enhances performance and reduces the likelihood of injury.  I would recommend this reasoning for the artist as well.  Hitting the canvas cold is rough.  The brain and temperament need to gently calibrate for the strangeness of the endeavor of painting.  I admire the polyglot that seamlessly jumps between languages.  However, I wonder if that isn’t an easier transition given the similarity in reasoning and expectations between different tongues whereas artistic communication and thinking operate with an entirely novel set of criteria.  It isn’t a simple substitution of different words for an idea, because often it is the feeling of the idea that matters.  Coming to the easel straight from the linguistic mind is like hopping off the toilet into full sprint—the body is engaged in a wholly different task and the results will be messy.  Read more…

10/7/14
It was said that Nicola Tesla could design prototypes of his inventions completely in his mind and then set them up to run in real time in the background of his other thoughts.  Periodically he would check in on the instrument and see how it was handling the task, making the mental adjustments until he was ready to make the physical incarnation in ideal form.  Most of us don’t have the caliber of brain functionality for such precise thought experiments but none-the-less our mental laboratories are creating thoughts that take on lives of their own.  There are thoughts that flit through consciousness before evaporating and others that are dismantled after their point is made, but some are equipped with the vitality to endure.  I don’t mean they endure as meaningful concepts, but as actual things outside of any linguistic validation, that have form and propulsion.     Read more…

9/7/14
The Pathfinder and Sojourner rovers were the first Earthling ambassadors to Mars in 1997 and since then they, and subsequent robotic ambassadors, have treated us to a multitude of astonishing images transmitted back to earth.  While amazing in their significance, many of the photos displayed a landscape that was not that visibly dissimilar to many arid locations on Earth.  In fact the greatest surprise I’ve found from the missions to Mars is the spectacular ordinariness of that planet.  Compared to say the Great Barrier reef, Victoria Falls, the Amazon rainforest, and New York City, Mars is rather sparse.  The familiarity I feel looking at the crisp snapshots of a land that is 140 million miles away (on average) is disconcerting.  One vantage point stands out from the rest though and that is of the Martian sunrise.  Read more…

08/23/2014

July 21st 2014 Photo: “Touching My Wife’s Hair While She is Sleeping” by David Campbell. There’s a lot going on in the mirror.  There’s you and all of your delusional corrections of the physiological shortcomings that stare back.  There’s time’s ceaseless march forward played out in your stubble, creases, spots and droops.  There’s your ego and all that stuff happening around it in the background.  Confronting a mirror for a self-portrait means tackling the significance of all that as well as the sorting out the painting itself.  But doing so creates a unique record of a human experience to which others might relate.  Read more…

May 27th 2014
Photo: Log Bridge painted by Alex Cohen

My father, uncle and brother attended Camp Powhatan on the pine-guarded shores of Pleasant Lake in Otisfield, Maine.  In 1988, when I was eight years old, I too began to spend my summers there.  I found the simple life of routine play was made immeasurably complex by the lore, legacy and ritual that saturated every bit of its cloistered community.  The design of the camp again was deceivingly simple; the boys were divided by age into a string of spartan bunks, each one guarded by two slightly older boys.  The days were divided by activities, mostly athletic, interrupted only by weather, injury and special competitions.  Behind that scenario was some unspoken and vague scheme of molding us into capable persons, or men even.  As abstract as that impetus was, it imparted a sense of meaning that set our cult in motion.  Read more…

April 13th 2014
Photo: The Magpie Mobile Mercantile

Ten years ago, after reading Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, I decided to buy and convert a truck into a painting studio.  I found an old USPS mail truck on ebay in which I fitted RV windows, painted green, and dubbed the Magpie Mobile Mercantile.  With a peddler’s permit I’d set up around Bucks County in spots where I could paint a scene and cause a scene.  In addition to my artwork I also carted around vegetables and cut flowers, CDs from musician friends, handbags made by another friend, and, oddly enough, an array of mismatched bathing suits that I’d been given.  I particularly liked the way that the produce and paintings mingled, giving the artwork some humility and made the veggies and flowers even more visual.  Now as I’ve recently sold the truck and put an official end to that experiment of gallivanting I’m reflecting on the experience. Read more…

02/13/2014

Photo: Alex Cohen’s studio wall of works very much in process.

Trying to get from point A to point B is only simple when nothing comes between the two.  In the roguish sport of Parkour, a daring individual tries to sprint from one location to another in the most efficient course possible regardless of what intervenes.  An urban environment is reframed as an obstacle course that the participant traces across rooftops and scaling walls.  While dangerous in practice it is a beautiful idea rephrasing the landscape as merely an event that has come between us and our destination.  Often we let all manners of obstacles internal and external dictate the path we take, but reclaiming our path in the manner of parkour can cut through and give us a thrill in the process. Read more…

12/10/2013

Photo: Drawing by Michael McJilton

Look in the margins of school notebooks or on pads beside telephones and you will find constellations of mark making.  These obsessively scrawled images, fussed and exaggerated, seem to have organically sprung up alongside conscientious note-taking like mold upon cheese.  In the household of my youth, the telephone notepad often had collaborative scribbles where one person would continue the design begun by someone else.  I was fascinated by my mothers’ lacy motifs and the names and numbers reverently traced again and again.  Whether they seem to subtract from or amplify the task at hand, doodles betray the workings of the mind as steam to a kettle. Read more…

11/18/2013

Photo: Ink drawing from the Mitsou series by Balthus

But what attitudes do cats adopt? Cats are just that: cats. And their world is utterly, through and through, a cat’s world. You think they look at us? Has anyone ever truly known whether or not they deign to register for one instant on the sunken surface of their retina our trifling forms?

-R.M Rilke from the introduction of Mitsou; 40 drawings by Balthus. Read more…

09/13/2013

Photo: The barn doors at Kings Oaks Art
In his recent musing on The Death of the Gallery, critic Jerry Saltz described the bewildering fizzle of the gallery culture in New York as market powers and tastes are pulling the carpet from under the cultural institution. The forum in which he once reveled was a gallery scene that promoted conversation about art with a certain historic continuity and certain consequences for artistic merit—and that is fading away, he decries. But he finds an optimistic coda by stating that the dethroning of the gallery might serve to unveil the reality of multiple art worlds and bring a certain democracy to audiences and artists. Read more…

08/13/2013

Photo: Andy Warhol’s Campell soup can available for sale on Amazon.com

Amazon.com has just grown the reach of their e-commerce empire a bit further.  One is now able to buy original artwork with the click of a button.  Where in the past Amazon has sidestepped and starved small business to compete for sales, in this venture they are actually working with galleries to supply the merchandise—at least for the time being.  One hundred and fifty galleries are participating in this experiment to begin with. The partnership theoretically benefits both parties by giving Amazon some credibility and direction in the vast murky waters of the art market, and giving galleries access to Amazon’s vast murky waters of clientele. Read more…

07/06/2013

Photo: Stanley Baker and Michael Caine in the 1964 film Zulu

In concept, a Classic Film has, by merit, endured through the ages unshaken by the winds of fashion.  Classic Films bubble to the surface and only improve with additional viewings, continually adding to modern conversations.  This is why I was so disturbed when recently I tried to watch the classic film Zulu on my father’s new television set and found it corrupted by technology. Read more…

05/23/2013

Last month, the Concordia Chamber Players had a unique concert offering.  Bracketed by the familiar comforts of Brahms and Mozart was something quite novel for classical chamber music— a piece written for Theremin.  The Theremin is an electric instrument played without any physical contact but by interfering with the frequencies emitting from two antennae.  While the novelty of the Theremin has made it the darling of eclectic hipster bands and Sci Fi soundtracks—the Theremin had originally been created with the intention of being incorporated into the classical setting.   Read more…

04/15/2013

In 1970 the New York Time’s critic, Hilton Kramer spoke of artist Philip Guston, after his debut of new paintings as, “A Mandarin Pretending to be a Stumblebum.”  Kramer was not alone in his harsh assessment of the painter’s apparent abandonment of abstract expressionism for a return to figuration.  Guston’s work as one of the seminal abstract expressionists was poetic and painterly with soulful investigations of the painting surface.  The new work that he was creating after moving from New York to Woodstock was still quite painterly, but now was filled with iconic, cartoonish imagery. Read more…

02/14/2013

I wanted to get a couch last year.  Or perhaps the desire for a new couch began earlier, years earlier, but only presented itself as a decision last year.  The couch that I am replacing belonged to my grandparents.  Like much of their wardrobe, it is bright red, or was bright red, now faded to bright pink.  It rides low and stretches long, big enough for someone to sleep outstretched with a medium sized dog at their feet.  My apartment is dark.  The pine board walls and ceiling cured overtime into a rich caffeinated brown and the carpet is a deep, jungle-night green.  Read more…

01/08/2013

Comedian Ricky Gervais has, in the past two years, produced a TV show calledAn Idiot Abroad, featuring his colleague Karl Pilkington as a reluctant traveler.  Defying the convention of the wise dauntless traveler who narrates his or her experience from a perspective of professorial awe, An Idiot abroad tells its story through a traveler who is very much uncomfortable with foreign custom and dubious of the world’s spectacles.  Karl is framed as the village idiot who cannot see things the way society deems normal, and is entertaining by way of his earnest grumbles. He finds the Great Wall of China repetitive, for instance.  Read more…

11/13/2012

The night after Superstorm Sandy subsided I was walking out in the woods pursuing an orange light where no orange light should be.  The rest of the night was an unusual darkness owed to the lack of power in the area but a steaming orange specter blistered behind silhouette trees.  I was on the phone with the police trying to describe what I was seeing while I stumbled through the muck and debris. While I realized the options for what it was were few, a coincidence was leading me to implausible nameless conclusions.  Read more…

10/02/2012

As a child I recall poking through the barn on my grandparents’ farm listening for ghosts and looking for artifacts with stories.  The vast, still air in the shadowy space carried the smells of tractor exhaust, moldering wood and rock, of long gone hay and grain, and animals who had snuck in and made the barn home.  It was the chaotic archive of antiquated farm equipment and saved materials. Read more…

08/07/2012

Watching the Olympics, I am consistently fascinated by the body types of the athletes.  We are a society of body worshippers and body idealizers, making the Olympics a rare opportunity to ogle and celebrate bodies that truly near an ideal form.  This is not a spectacle of smokin’ hot bod’s but an exhibition of anatomy that has been honed to perform specific feats, and subsequently tell a story.
Ideals of body are illustrated in part by the closeness of form to function.  Read more…

06/09/2012

When we are young our parents tell each of us not to look at the sun.  We are told that it will damage your eyes to stare directly at it.  This thing that hovers over us, that fills the world with light and life is also to be feared.  It’s one of the first serious paradoxes we encounter.  Curiosity usually wins out over caution and we eventually all take a painful peek.  We see for a damaging instant the searing yellow disk turning pink and blue, shimmering like a hypnotists’ pendant.  We feel both enamored and full of dread realizing that beauty really can injure. Read more…

05/01/2012

There is no better revelation than realizing the value of something previously detested.  We privilege redemption stories over all others because they give us hope of being better and of bad things becoming good.
One might have never liked the taste of olives until mistakenly eating tapenade.  One might have grudgingly slogged through Jane Austin in High School only find it on a rainy day bookshelf raid years later and become transfixed.  A girl who has never made an impression might become the object of desire after being heard singing.   Read more…

03/26/2012

At the El Bar in North Philadelphia after their first public performance, the students of the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training were ravenous for critique and reaction.  They sieved through each of the twelve sketches performed to find the intricate merits and deficits, polling me as an audience member for my perspective.  They were also giddy to suppose and decipher the opinions of their teachers.  Often the bar banter would blossom into dramatization just as a burp will recall the pleasure of a recent meal.  Read more…

02/14/2012

In the fall I attempted to paint a pineapple.  I had an idea that was taking shape for a painting of a pineapple that would have a very specific look and feeling. The pineapple was to be arranged on my crimson kitchen table under the hanging lamp and painted at night.  It was to look both solemn and foreboding in that light.  I wanted the painting to have the look of kitchens at night, where the tables wait for the next day’s meal.  Moreover though, I wanted to take a symbol of welcome and richness and find its worrisome silhouette.  The pineapple is a strange thing with a strange history and I wanted it to look strange. Read more…

01/11/2012

 The Mind’s Eye is a wonderful concept that enables one to relate a visual experience occurring solely within one’s own head.  It’s a constant inkling in imagery that belongs to our private internal world.  We have limited control of this strange faculty, managing sometimes to coax an image into mind, but not exactly being able to insist upon it’s exactness or clarity.
If the eyes observe what’s happening around us in the present, the Mind’s Eye visualizes everything that is not in the present.  In that private viewing space we see versions of what was, what might be and what could be.  If the eyes see fact, the mind’s eye sees possibility.  Read more…

09/27/2011

Recently Sue Roseman had the difficult task of contacting the over 300 artists she represents to tell them that after 18 years of business Riverbank Arts Gallery is closing.  I am among those artists and share with them a collective grief for this loss.  More than a loss of an exhibition venue, it is a loss to the art community of Bucks and Hunterdon counties.  Though the gallery was able to keep its head above the rising waters of the Delaware and the lousy economy, it lost out when its lease for the space was not renewed under new ownership.    Read more…

My friend Jesse works in a neuroscience research lab at the University of Pennsylvania.  He and his lab mates explore traits of neuron de and regeneration in Zebrafish.  Their lab is a place where big questions are answered on a very small scale, an institution handling the exquisite delicacy of biology.  Looking at that delicacy takes a lot of arduous and repetitive labor.  Jesse spends his days coaxing bacteria to grow strands of DNA, which are then separated and implanted in the Zebrafish.  Read more…

08/26/2011

Investigation s In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 26
“Through the Birds’ Window.”
Photo: “The Builders” by Stanley Spencer
8/16/11

Last fall a friend invited me out to Chester County to assist in a bird netting operation at Willistown Conservation Trust.  Specifically we would be netting Saw-Whet owls as they migrated through the Pennsylvania skies at night.  This was not done for sport but rather to band the birds and monitor their movements.  Read more…

07/05/2011

Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 25
“(Un)Titled.”
Photo: “Serving Coffee” or “Sycophant” by Alex Cohen
7/5/11

If a title card is available next to a painting I have a hard time not looking at it.  Even before I’ve fully taken in the image, I look at the title its creator.  I’ve tried to break this habit, but it persists.  It feels somehow disrespectful to look at those words because words and paintings are always a bit incongruous and a painting should be privileged over its title.  I’d like to think that a painting shouldn’t need an explanation.   But words have their own attraction and subversively insert their place next to a painting.  Despite my conflict with titles, I am part of the problem as a namer of paintings. Read more…

04/12/2011

Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 23
“The Greatest Film Never Made”
Photo: Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”
4/12/11

Holding the new hardcover edition of Alison Castle’s “Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made”, one can’t escape the weight of the subject at hand.  The ten pound, 1112 page, 14x9x3 inch book makes this ghost of an unrealized endeavor tangible with sheer heft.  This book is, after all, an endeavor about an endeavor about an endeavor.  Castle took eight years among the infamous Kubrick archives to create a book that follows the obsessive and tactical style of the infamous director’s fourteen year crusade to make a film about one of history’s most heralded tactician who ruled the French for ten years. Read more…

02/28/2011

Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 22
“Banana Peel”
Photo: Unfinished painting, “Interruption” by Alex Co

My father, who is a physician, has never treated anyone or heard of anyone who has injured themselves slipping on a banana peel.  I myself have not been imperiled by a banana peel, nor do I know anyone who has suffered such a mishap. Yet the banana peel has earned a peculiar reputation for liability.
The interior of the peel is the soft moist interface with the fruit, while the exterior is leathery and protects the fruit from the outside world. When a banana peel rots, Read more…

01/04/2011

This Christmas sadly marked a years passing since singer songwriter, Vic Chesnutt took his own life.  I wrote a reaction to his death in an essay last January and have since wanted to write with more specificity about his music.  To review his song Styrofoam from the 2003 record “Silver Lake” could serve to convey his entire musical legacy.  I’d just as soon keep the review small, about a singular creation, but Vic’s songs have a way exploding humble private musings into big deals.   Read more…

11/23/2010

During a good summer storm, if I’m lucky, a heavy dose of lightning will steal away the house electricity. As an interruption to an activity that was relying on that electricity, this is a nuisance.  But my first sensation in a suddenly darkened house is not a reaction to the absence of light or the cessation of electronics but towards the delicious quiet.  Even though the sounds of the storm will carry on outside there is a revelation of how noisy the house was before the surge.  Read more…

08/07/2010

As I gain familiarity with available pigments, mediums and tools, I hone in on a family of materials that I consistently replenish.  More often than not I purchase my oil paint from online art supply merchants these days.  I go to Dick Blick’s or Utrecht’s online store and order my supplies with the presumption that their quality will be the same as that which I’ve already used.  The supplies arrive, neatly packaged at my doorstep within a few days.  It is an efficient and predictable process towards which I’ve grown quickly complacent.  Read more…

06/07/2010

The realm of design is so vast and philosophies for what makes good design are as varied as tastes in art.  By and large the majority of design that we experience is in a supporting role.  The task of the thing that is designed is not changed by the design, but it is qualified by it.  A chair is for sitting, but it can be comfortable or uncomfortable, handsome or ugly.   While a chair is defined largely by its function as a sitting device, it needs to have a core “chair DNA” to be recognized as such, and not confused for a couch, a stool or a horse.  Read more…

05/10/2010

As a time of renewal, spring prompts us to clean house and make busy all the projects that winter stunted.  I have been organizing my studio the last few weeks, not just in service of that cathartic spring clean, but to prepare for the Elephant’s Eye Bucks County Studio tour, in which I will be participating for the second year.
Regarding the arrangement of my studio space, I often think of the eccentric New York short-order chef who described his kitchen as a series of creative solutions to the problems that arise over time.  Building a creative space is a communication back and forth between a person and their surroundings leading to a design adapted to one’s personal habits.  Read more…

04/05/2010

Several years ago I endeavored at the side of some dear friends to make 120 feet of pork sausage.  It would take a bit too much exposition to describe the event for which this sausage was necessary, but suffice it to say it involved delusions of grandeur and a gathering of 120 individuals expecting to be fed the next day.  The leader of this operation was a geologist with equal expertise as a chef and a commanding vision for food.  The rest of us carried out the roles of meat trimmer, meat grinder, spice measurer and casing manager under his guidance.  Together, we were a fine-working machine with meat dancing between us, transforming into fine Italian sausage. Read more…

03/08/2010

Geography is a strange business for visualization.  Maps have historically been drawn through exploration and conquest, compounded with superstition and supposition and only recently calibrated by modern technology.  Even with a democracy of satellite precision, most of us carry around the idea of a map, observed from above, holding Europe and the United States in the center of our gaze.  While it is important to have a common agreement on the layout of our globe, it is just a metaphor.  Our actual experience isn’t quite defined by maps and globes.  It’s interesting to keep track of where our mental maps wander away from cartography. Read more…

02/08/2010

It’s likely that recently deceased author, J.D. Salinger will be remembered as much if not more for his noted reclusion than for his written works.  Shying away from the attention his writing earned, Salinger adopted a secluded life in rural New Hampshire that lasted over fifty years.  It’s ironic that reclusion from attention should bring about attention to reclusion, but such a retreat creates a nagging mystery that only grows more intriguing with silence.
The acts of writing and painting share a similar solitude.  They are private acts that pass on to a public audience.  Read more…

12/13/2009

It is hard to avoid observing the growing trend of camera use in museums. The ubiquitous transition to digital cameras that can easily travel with us in our pockets or even phones has made the photograph a very different thing for the traveler. We’ve all seen museum visitors walking about the gallery with their camera held up, looking at the digital screen rather than the real painting. The casual digital photographer records his or her experiences without the constraints of film or heavy equipment.  Attitudes towards quality have also slipped thanks to digital, freeing the photographer from restrictions of taste.  The camera lens is indiscriminant of what it sees and sometimes this causes the photographer to be the same.  Nothing is too sacred or meaningless as to be spared the click of the digital camera. Read more…

11/09/2009

Printed in the Bucks County Herald 11/9/09

Every night, my nearly two-year old nephew sleeps next to a floppy Eeyore doll.   His bedtime ritual involves snuggling into Eeyore’s softness as he dozes off.  For Halloween this year his parents dressed him up as this loveable character from Winnie the Pooh.  For his first independently mobile Halloween he strolled in the New York baby parade, gray ears lolling and pink-bowed tail swaying.  Read more…

10/08/2009

I was speaking with a friend recently about how our sense of space seems radically different in different locations.  More than the obvious change in topography and surroundings, there seemed to us an elemental difference in the relationship of earth to sky from place to place.  Why does the sky feel so much bigger in Montana, for example.  The quality of blue in the sky seems to factor greatly into these perceptions.  I recalled a landscape-painting teacher who instructed us on the mixture of paint for sky blue.  Read more…

09/19/2009

This week Ken Burn’s new documentary about our National Parks and National Forests airs on PBS.  I watched one installment of this series that focused on the evolving purpose of the National Forests.  The controversy persisted around whether these tracts of natural wilderness should be preserved for their purity or exploited for their resource.  In either regard they became places to visit and behold.  The question serving as a refrain was “what is the greater good” of these special places.  What, in fact is the purpose of a landscape at all?  What do we behold in its presence.  It is not just a difficult question put towards the actual landscape, but for pictorial representations of them as well.   Read more…

08/09/2009

He wears a marvelous red coat.  It is snug at his waist but opens loosely at the chest to let the billow of white shirt ruffles breathe.  Nested atop the white ruffles is a proper black tie, its relaxed knot allowing him to greet those he passes with a decadent smile.  Tawny gloves secure his two tools: a handheld monocle and a long knobbed cane.  Both articles extend the gesture of his swinging arms, setting a rhythm that could inspire dancing.  Read more…

06/27/2009

I met Rodger Lovell at the Golden Nugget Flea Market in Lambertville, NJ.  He was haggling over the price of an old barn painting.  He caught my attention when he argued with the seller, saying that the painting was too ugly for the price he was asking.   This begged the question as to why Rodger would even want to buy a painting he found ugly, which the seller asked.  Rodger responded by describing his collection of broken down and abandoned house paintings.   Read more…

06/01/2009

In mid- May I was one of the participating artists in the Elephant’s Eye Studio Tour.   This was a self-guided tour in which twelve Bucks County artists open their studios to the public. Over the course of two weekends about 140 visitors came through my studio. I think of the artist’s studio as the height of a personal space, and more often than not, a private one. So it was a unique experience to see my own personal space through the eyes of others. Read more…

05/09/2009

The Elephant in the Room
By Alex Cohen
Printed in the Bucks County Herald 5/09

There are two things consistently in the field of view for everyone reading this column. The first is the text of this essay in the Bucks County Herald.  The other, I predict would be omitted from mind when describing what you see— yourself!  There is rarely a time when we are absent from our vision; our hands, arms, legs, stomach and even bridge of the nose are there before us connected to the rest of our visual world.  Yet we scrub our visual memory free of ourselves.  We keep our image disconnected from the subject matter around us except when we appear in a reflected surface or visual record. Read more…

04/20/2009

The Art of Slowness
By Alex Cohen
Printed in the Bucks County Herald 4/20/09

It is a strange task to produce a work that will endure beyond its maker— enduring physically and in infamy.  On some level, this is the absurdity in which a painter engages each time he or she approaches the canvas.   One dilemma in the face of this metaphysical crisis is pacing the construction of a painting.  Since the lifespan of a painting after completion will inevitably outweigh the time of its creation, how long should one spend getting it ready for a life in the big bad world?  Read more…

01/13/2009

Printed in the Bucks County Herald 1/13/09

The tendency in remembering a life lost is to reduce it to a legacy.   All the important accomplishments and traumas are winnowed from the chaff and are threaded into a narrative.  In this way a life can be remembered in a concise way for history as in a dictionary definition.  Remembering an artist who has passed away is uniquely challenging for me because it changes how their artwork is experienced. Read more…