Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Incredible Artist/Poet Kenny Cole

This Summer, at Lubec Arts Alive, I had the pleasure of meeting a talent who has done something nearly impossible: combined visuals and words in a way that bridges the two mediums and masters both. When you look at his drawings, which are also writings, you are led to a perplexing yet astounding question:

Is Kenny Cole an ARTIST or is he a POET?

And there is no right answer. It’s like the duck/rabbit figure, in which you can alter your gestalt to see two different ways:

Cole has mastered the duck/rabbit trick as applied to art and poetry. He is either an artist or a poet, depending on your perspective, and neither perspective is more valid than the other.

Intriguingly, the question does not go away even though he often uses other people’s words in his intense drawings. And those words are not always those of practicing poets. Cole uses excerpts from political speeches, sacred texts, shop manuals, daily banter, or whatever. No matter the original context, the message is greatly enhanced and often transformed. This adds credence to my argument that Cole is a wonderful poet!

Every single letter gets special attention, and the letters are part of the tenor of the metaphor, which in turn is part of the holism of the overall flourish and energetic ambience of the drawing. And yet the basic semantics of the prose remain integral to the overall effect. In this way, Cole balances aptly on an hypnotic cusp between the literary and the symbolic.

Perhaps Cole doesn’t so much change the words as bring out their innate power. He leads us to an enlightened discovery of the magic inherent in language. But then again, this conjures a conundrum: what is inherent in literary meaning, and what becomes a matter of a great artist’s wizardry?

It’s all so baffling yet wondrous and philosophical and absorbing--and to make it even better, Cole is driven by an ethical impulse of the most profound and exigent kind. You just have to see his work to even begin to understand this ink bard’s prolific expression, and the exquisite levels and interactions of his living scripts--part satire, part cartoon, part pain, part indictment, part poetic.

Lastly, Cole is a friendly and unassuming person, just an “ordinary guy” in casual conversation. Amazing considering the intensity of his work, which surely absorbs much of his time. Support him by buying some of his drawings, or even by becoming a subscriber. He's a true obsessed, dedicated, passionate seeker in the wilds of creativity.

OWL out.

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