2014 Notes
08/23/2014

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…

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…

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…

06/15/2015

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…

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…

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…

06/15/2015

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…