2009 Notes
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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…