ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, a biography, and a collection of essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 13 literary books since 1987.
“There are some people who feel that fiction should be easy to read, that it’s a popular medium that should communicate on a somewhat conversational wavelength. On the other hand, there are those who feel that fiction can be challenging … that it’s okay if a person needs to work a bit while reading …
“Much in the way that would-be civilized debates are polarized by extreme thinkers on either side, this debate has been made to seem like an either/or proposition, that the world has room for only one kind of fiction, and that the other kind should be banned …
“But while the polarizers have been going at it, there has existed a silent legion of readers, perhaps the majority of readers of literary fiction, who don’t mind a little of both.”
— Dave Eggers, foreword to David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
“Death is creative, but not picky — she will claim us according to her time schedule and whims, regardless of cause of Death. Don’t obsess over Death. Live each moment as if it were your first and last.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
My two latest published books:
ADAM AS PAINTER:
“My ‘style’? I instinctively rebel against being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’; just as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or populistic black-and-white classifications such as ‘political correctness vs. incorrectness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need of others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. Alas, we live in a world of labels, ratings, and quality judgments based on popularity and price. The closest relevant generic style classifications of my own art might be perhaps ‘abstract’, ‘colour field’, ‘geometric’, ‘abstract expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ etc. But I always find my own ‘mix’ … with limitless variations. My art and writing are meant to be different and new; and pleasing, challenging and annoying — at the same time.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
“X, Y and Z Generations … in Troubled Times”, is a series of three self-portraits, challenging the ways I see myself and the ways I wish others to see/experience me. Today’s challenges are many, and the successive generations barely have time for needed self-reflection in the face of the daily, fast-changing technological, climate and other challenges. In this painting I invite the viewer to face himself/herself in this world where faces and Art are often just another image.
I personally experience this painting as scary and uncomfortable. What I mean by saying that the painting is “scary” is that it confirms the dilemma that I face in today’s crazy World — an “unfinished symphony” that is essentially never to be totally understood.
There were never to be any figures totally painted because the pictures represent people/humanity/me in development and unraveling. The pic of me all dressed up in a fur coat is the “show guy” presenting himself to The World … (x-generation). The y-generation me with the green face is the creative and thinking me — absorbed in my own thoughts and ideas, but battling against those imposed upon me by living in The World. And the z-generation is me blocking out and hiding from The World, the mental bombardments of images, coined phrases, propaganda, advertisements, and the glaring and oppressive heatwaves and sunlight etc. That image is in the largest state of disintegration, the skin coloring depicting a body that is almost lifeless and the head partially covered by a veil of mourning. Of course, all of the images are (as is the Internet, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, mainstream media and alternative media) manipulations — leaving out ears (i.e. really hearing and listening) and other details in order “to guide” the viewer into focusing upon the sunglasses, clothing and accessories (headlines) instead of seeing the person (content) inside … and we are consequently in a continuous struggle for self-marketing and esteem vs. incompletion and dissatisfaction with systems of ethics and values that both constrain and embrace us.
The painting is “The Scream” that was never really expressed outwardly. And the minimalistic pastel-colored background is the general environment of denial — “everything is normal” — that acts as a sedative, more than inspiration.
«Vanishing Act», 46 x 55 cm., oil on canvas, 2020, is a raw self-portrait about being careful what we wish for. While many would wish for the rapid disappearance of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), it would presently seem more plausible that such reference be most applicable to the Fade-Out Star (R Coronae Borealis). In the upper left corner one can barely make out a vanishing star, consumed by the Darkness of Uncertainty — truly Hell in its most natural form. The raw background hints of that in many well-known paintings by Old Masters, but here there is a messy disharmony that is threatening to consume the figure in the painting and the viewer — like an unavoidable train wreck … in slow motion. There are many important lessons yet to be learned from the COVID-19 experience. It is karmic, and in that understanding lies a solace that enables us to adapt to both life during struggle … and to the inevitability of Death. The figure — itself already vanishing behind protective gear — is waist-deep in the mire, but is yet optimistic — if not aloof to the dangers of chance and folly. The true challenge is perhaps not how quickly or how completely we can return to normality, but whether the former normality is actually the problem itself.
“Les vents de l’Enfer”, 65 x 90 cm., Huile sur toile; basé sur les six faces par lesquelles nous percevons la mort —
La mort en tant qu’ennemi,
La mort en tant qu’étranger,
La mort en tant qu’ami,
La mort en tant que mère,
La mort en tant que voleur et
La mort en tant qu’amant.
Writing about Death is not foreign to me, but I have only approached the theme once before in my paintings. Thus, I have made a new painting about Death (which for we who survive others becomes a personal Hell for a time). And regardless of how we see Death, the Hell of loss is still there gnawing away at us … underneath the masks we put on to shield ourselves and others in our grief.
Here is my previous painting about Death:
I am accomplished and recognized in many areas, including art, literature, performing arts and activism. My life as an activist: my activism began when I was a teenager in USA — as a strong opponent to the war in Vietnam and a conscientious objector to the draft. I was even thrown out of the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman (of the Chicago Seven case fame) for misbehavior.
Since then I have engaged myself in the rights of several social groups including the homeless, gays, artists, immigrants and persons with AIDS. I have represented Norway internationally and at the UN in NYC, I have debated with several government ministers in Norway on tv, radio, newspapers, delivered public speeches, and started organizations to preserve and secure the rights of artists and of unemployed immigrants. While I am now retired from activism, I am proud of my almost fifty years of public service as an activist — complemented by my literary and artistic works in support of these issues. I started and ran the organization Artists in Motion (for artists of all artistic disciplines in Norway) and the Norwegian World AIDS Day Art Exhibitions, among other initiatives. I have made notable and documented contributions in Norway and internationally through debates and speeches, music (I studied piano under several renowned concert pianists in NYC), theater and dance stage performances, art exhibitions, publications, literary engagements on four continents, and more. You will no longer find me on Facebook, Twitter, English Wikipedia (Norwegian Wikipedia, yes) etc. I have pulled out of several accounts on all (and also two previous Instagram profiles) despite having maximum « friends/followers ». I prefer space to be myself, and to set my own artistic, literary and socio-political agendas. I market my ideas more than my art and my literature. My art and my literature are representations of my philosophies, my ideas and my politics about Life, the world, art and literature. My art is found in several countries, and my fourteen published books (in all major genres) are written in several languages and published on three continents.
“Model”: Tor (in memoriam).
« What is the importance of attention to background in painting? Ha! The concept of background as a separate entity is an illusion — even in minimalistic art it is both an important protagonist on the stage, as well as the cast of supporting actors. Context Baby … context defines the entire painting. »
— Adam Donaldson Powell
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. My ‘style’? I react to being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’ as vehemently as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or ‘political correctness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need for others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. The closest relevant generic style classifications might be perhaps ‘abstract’, ‘colour field’, ‘geometric’, ‘abstract expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ etc. But I always find my own ‘mix’ … with limitless variations. My art and writing are meant to be different and new; and pleasing, challenging and annoying — at the same time. I have resided several places in the USA, as well as in Spain and (currently) in Norway. My art often addresses cultural, political, social and spiritual issues relevant to our day and age.
My aim is not necessarily to produce art that “is ornamental” but rather to challenge ideas, ideals, behaviour patterns etc. that often pass by uncommented. I am further interested in questioning the relationships between politics and art, social media and art and social dynamics in a globalised context which often prioritises (in my opinion) social media short cuts to celebrity-status, politically-correct trends, blatant artistic style copying, and lack of creativity as regards current and future relationships between artists, art galleries, art museums, street art and art on the internet. My perspective is that creativity is now a “human right and a vital resource”, and that the truest value in art today lies not in a long curriculum vitae or social media hype, but rather in the art that is freshly-/newly-produced and the contexts in which it is presented and marketed. The function of art today and in the near future is (again, in my opinion) directly related to the degree in which art inspires and encourages all persons to embrace creativity in their lives, rather than to create individual “icons”.
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
— Chuck Close
Sitat: “Det er viktig å ha gode tekniske ferdigheter men kunst krever publikumstekke, publikumsvennlige ideer, budskap og evne til å bevege mennesker — enten til glede og inspirasjon eller forakt etc. God kunst formidler ut fra hjertet og tankene til kunstneren som beboer på planeten. Det tekniske blir ingen erstatning for dette.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
Quote: “It’s important to have good technical skills, but art requires crowd appeal, ideas of public/social interest, messages and the ability to move people – either to joy and inspiration or contempt etc. Good art conveys from the heart and mind of the artist as one who lives on the planet. Technical skills alone will not compensate for lack of this.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
“Every new painting is like throwing myself into the water without knowing how to swim.”
— Edouard Manet
“Like Vincent van Gogh, I am an impasto painter. My painting tools include brushes, knives, plastic, rags, sponges, credit cards, pieces of wood, leaves, fingers, hands, feet … basically, whatever it takes to create the effect, textures and spirit of the idea to be conveyed. I paint on everything I can find: canvas, paper, wooden boards, cardboard, cloth, styrofoam, rocks … It is both a passion and an addiction. Lots of dopamine in my brain, I guess.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
MAPPLETHORPE IN TRIPTYCH.
I decided that it was best to depict Mapplethorpe in an expressionist style – and almost like a charcoal and chalk painting. This to depict the simplicity he has hidden behind in his public appearances, and in his art photography. The wisdom of that choice is apparent in the picture in the middle, which deals with his internal perceptions of himself, and where the spectator’s eye goes straight to the majestic Cala Lily – The flower of Death – which Mapplethorpe was so keen on. And the flower is so calm and majestic that the drama of the expressionist style is immediately reset in a single glance.
Robert Mapplethorpe triptych – a work-in-progress. Keywords: Mapplethorpe, tabloid (lurid, sensational) art, guns as penises, penises as guns, splattered blood, blood stains, sex, AIDS, crosses, Calla lily (flower of Death), sado-masochism, fetish, narcissism, pecs and nipples, the body as a living sculpture, perfection vs. the glory of the imperfect, Don Herron’s iconic Tubshot photo. Each panel measures 40 x 50 cm.
NB. Yes, I address Mapplethorpe’s obsession with Black men and their bodies / genitals by featuring Mapplethorpe himself in mirror image — as both Caucasian and Negroid. In this way his desire to completely embody and define ultimate personification of sexuality will finally be complete.
The iconic Don Herron Tubshots photo of Mapplethorpe was chosen as my model because I actually met Mapplethorpe at his loft when Don and I delivered the photograph to him. This triptych is my “tribute” to both Don Herron and Robert Mapplethorpe.
And here is Don’s portrait of me (in our bathtub in the East Village, NYC in 1978):
“White night no. 1”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.
Sunset reflecting through Venetian blinds, onto wooden floor.
«Sunrise in early Spring», oil on canvas, 65×90 cm., 2018.
REGARDING MY INSPIRATION AND IDEAS …
“I see poetry everywhere. In fact, each and every one of my paintings is a poem or a story … with hints of a song, an opera, a dance, a theater performance.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
Redefining Cocteau’s interpretation of “The young man and death”:
My painting — entitled “The young man and death” – represents a violent and hazardous order; whitewashed mental chaos with the conviction of purification and with cutting knife marks of self-harm … and swirling depression with so many overwhelming rhythmic atonalites that the blue electricity of pulses and currents are stifled by a huge blanketing whiteness that gives a general impression of calm and control – as long as we follow each breath religiously. It is an atmosphere of violent beauty; the inner environment that cleanses and consumes all the perceptions of the outside world which drives us to the ultimate act of correction and glory: suicide. The whiteness of depression is the light at the end of the tunnel of death – promise of rebirth, new virginity and ultimate seduction. The thick slabs of paint represent the mud walls we erect to keep ourselves safe in our cocoons – in our fortress. Depression does not concern sadness, but rather the construction of our castle in heaven, where our indifference to success and failure can finally flourish. Nirvana. Here, death is not a woman, but the young man’s own psyche. The misogynistic vision of Cocteau will be whitewashed and exposed as a void that disguises itself as male self-victimization. I covered the minimalist painting with camouflage netting, this in order to force the viewer to want to look at the discomfort in the pictures. To look under the veil and then to identify oneself sufficiently in the Mind to be able to look for the veil of Emptiness that is under the veil. Of course, no one really wants to know about another person’s depression – especially if they are suicidal. We are all fighting the same depression and nothingness. It’s only a thought away. The result will be a two-dimensional sculpture painting.
Jean Maurice Eugene Clement Cocteau was very talented, very brave, very “gay”, very famous … and very misogynistic. Only the unfortunate or idiots would be stupid enough to try to make him angry.
“The young man and death In a workshop, a young man alone is waiting. In comes the girl who was the cause of his distress. He rushes towards her, she pushes him away, he begs her, she insults him, scoffs at him and tells him to go hang himself. He hangs himself. Only the body of the hanged man remains. Through the roofs, death then returns in a prom dress. She takes off her mask: it’s the girl. So she puts her mask on the face of her victim. Together, they go through the roofs.
— Jean Cocteau”
More than seventy years have passed since this work had its world premiere. And the idea still haunts me. The story is too thin … a cheap shot designed to shock. The cheating woman has the coldness of a man, and the desperate man (the cuckold) hang himself as the woman demands. The irony is that a number of men today commit suicide after their wife’s infidelity or divorce. But what else is behind this suicide? Surely there are problems of depression and relationship within man before this development? Was the woman really responsible for his death? Is the infidelity of another person really the cause of suicide – or is it just a symptom, the result of a long-standing illusion that can no longer be denied? Is not this another expression of misogyny in the age of Romanticism? And how can I recreate this story / painting – penetrating more into the young man’s psyche – far beyond this woman representing death, who can so easily be blamed?
It’s the same for both or all genders (there are more than two now). Because depression and suicide are taboo subjects, I want to force the public to commit to watching and walking inside the painting. These problems need to be normalized – like cancer and other syndromes and lifestyle diseases.
“It is important to understand and simply accept that all our past experiences, whether joyful or sad, continue to accompany us throughout our lives and greatly affect the way we feel today. Problems can only trigger feelings of insecurity, shame, envy or revenge if we deny that they are part of us. To be overwhelmed by such feelings in the most difficult situations requires us to recognize them and consciously integrate them as natural parts of our psyche. Only then will we be able to develop a loving acceptance of ourselves with all our flaws and shortcomings.” — from www. astro.com
As I always say, a lot of fiction is more factual than readers realize. Cocteau was very misogynistic and obsessed with wanting a son, and had great anger when the woman of his choice (Princess Natalie Paley) rejected him: he said that women were “the killers of poets’ children”, there had been many suicides in his life, and so on – all of which indicate his psychological problems at work in this story.
“Le jeune homme et la mort”, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas. This is my re-interpretation of Cocteau’s idea for the famous ballet. See my notes about this HERE!
“Love illusion”, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas.
ADAM AS PHOTOGRAPHER:
See my Oslo Street Art Documentation Photography (including documentation of works by The London Police, Galo, Shepard Fairey, Logan Hicks, D-Face, Will Barras, Faile, Martin Whatson and many unnamed graffiti artists) HERE!
I have reviewed art and photography: art photography appearing in photography book publications, paintings in public exhibitions, and art photography collections made for / on the internet. Here are two examples of my photography criticism using an epistolary format: