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  • (, or Kenny Cole does not go viral.)

    The painting Landscape with Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (about 1525-69), is a vast scene on a modest scale at 29 x 44 inches.
    In the background of the painting there is a small splash in the ocean.

    off the coast
    there was
    a splash quite unnoticed
    this was
    Icarus drowning”
    So ends the poem of the same title as the painting, by William Carlos Williams

    Here on our coast of Maine, another splash goes unnoticed, this week, the artist Kenny Cole deleted his facebook account.

    He spent a year, “willing to sift through a wild and wooly online comment stream to tease out truths. People say dumb things, but if we really listen there is usually a “truth” in there somewhere,” (said Cole). He made hundreds of drawings of these conversations , to create the series “Flood. ” Cole combines internet commentary, following an article about the alleged decline of the nomadic Moken people of Myanmar, with biblical verses about Noah’s epic, these texts end up aligning through Cole's style, a neo-pop primitivism.

    Why should Kenny Cole deleting his account cause notice?
    He has had an active art career for close to three decades, more than a hundred shows at the high and low end of venues, received critical acclaim, some awards and respect within the artistic community.
    Every day now people are going viral, or postal, or going unnoticed.
    Two events coincide with Cole's action, the artist Banksy unveiled his theme park and Cole's truck needs a new transmission.
    Hardworking artists cannot compete or profit in the art world with the giant shows, the Alternative Blockbusters like Banksy, Faile or Koons. False promise glitters and hides the truth that you can, as an artist, work hard, get attention and end up with your day job, needing a new truck.
    That and the very theme of his current exhibit “Flood,” has come back to haunt him personally, that sense of being diluted and drowned out by the endless stream of internet images, the sense of being unheard and unnoticed.

    What we did was what friends do, go out and have a friendly dinner at a local place by the water. We talked, drank and communicated in person.
    That unnoticed splash in the water was Icarus falling/failing, but Deadulus, hardworking, long planning and patient, rode the sky to freedom.

    “I want to annoy people,” Kenny said of the show. “Today I read about the beheading of an 80 year old museum scholar by Isis and I dropped into a deep pit of depression! I don't necessarily want fame and attention, rather I'd like the world to change, be less violent and more aesthetic. Then I'd like to contribute....I think that's all I want!”

    “Mission accomplished,” said my husband, who wants Cole to return to some of his earlier imagery and strange imagination.
    “How radical is that,” said Kenny Cole, smiling, “To have a blank piece of paper and make something up, out of your own head!”
    That idea can get you beheaded in some cultures and ignored in our own, but this is the job and the peril of the artist, to avoid the fate of Icarus and achieve the goal of Deadalus.

    Flood continues at BUOY Gallery in Kittery Maine, into September.
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