Chris Cook Artist

Southern Art – Georgia Artist – Landscape Paintings, Christian Art, Southern Expressionist Art

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The Infamy of Hope and Youth

I have to say that I was at a loss when I learned that Chris wanted me to write about the infamy of Anne Frank. When I think about infamy, my mind does not typically turn to people who had their lives ended too soon, or who were subjected to the horrors of Nazi Germany during World War II.

But then I began to think. “What is Anne Frank famous for?” And the inspiration for this post started to come to me.

Anne is famous because of the diary that she kept while she and her family, along with several others, were hiding from Nazi forces. A gift from her father, the notes and diary entries that Anne wrote were his attempt to give Anne a way to express herself and keep busy during what he knew would be a difficult time.

Anne Frank’s legacy wasn’t held within the years of her life, but rather in the life and wisdom that was contained in her 15 short years. Though she was young, Frank had a gift for telling stories, and her spirit that refused to give up, even in what was surely one of the darkest ages that our world has faced. Anne can be called infamous because, despite the pain, fear, and inhumanity that she faced from the Nazis, she never let that get her spirit and faith in the world down. Anne held on to the hope that evil would not win out, and that this season of her life would one day transform into spring of new life and growth.

I believe that the following quote from her diary sums up her spirit quite well:

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

I believe that many young people are seen as infamous because of their refusal to give into the negativity, hatred, and suffering that are so paramount in their world. Anne Frank held on to hope for a better tomorrow. As a youth pastor, I get to see the hope and excitement for a better tomorrow that is contained in the lives of the students that I get to work with each day. I am grateful for her legacy of hope, faith, and courage – and that I can see it live on in the faces of the youth of today.

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Storytelling is painting pictures with words:

 

“I don’t care what anyone says about me, as long as it isn’t true.”  -Truman Capote

Chris told me that this exhibit is very much about the face of the subject. He scoured the web for the right images of each person that he showcases in this work before settling on the right one to infamy that person has to offer. I believe that he caught Truman Capote’s struggle perfectly with this expressive piece.

Born a meek, sensitive, and mild-mannered boy, young Truman was picked on for being a wimp. He was criticized for his creativity and his inventive ways. Little did his friends know that this creative little wimp would grow up to become a famous playwright.

Because of his struggles in school, and difficulties in his home life, Capote made poor grades and spent much of his high school years drinking and carousing with is friends at the clubs. Some of Capote’s associates at that time included the likes of Oona O’Neil, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neil (Long Day’s Journey, The Iceman Cometh), and Gloria Vanderbilt.

A big part of Capote’s infamy came as a result of his struggles with alcohol, his social outcast nature as a child, his family struggles, his expression of his own struggles through the stories that he told in his writings, and the fact that Capote had a 35 year relationship with author Jack Dunphy in a time when homosexual relationships were much less the norm. Many of Capote’s writings were criticized heavily because of the emotional struggles and “homosexual themes” contained within them.

Perhaps one of Capote’s greatest successes was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which he explored the life of a New York Girl who depended on men to get by. The story was adapted into the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn. Capote also became famous for his work In Cold Blood, in which he followed the story of a gruesome murder trial. This work proved to be a highly emotionally taxing endeavor.

Capote’s brilliance in storytelling was the only thing that paralleled the controversy and intrigue surrounding his lifestyle. He spent many years in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol, struggled with social settings and strained relationships, and working to “fit in” with the “typical” life of an American male author in his time. Regardless of his personal struggles and his infamy Capote’s ability to tell a story and to captivate an audience is undeniable.

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Walking the Line in Infamy

When Chris asked me to begin writing blog posts again, I was excited and thrilled. I love his artwork and really enjoy stretching my creative writing muscles as I compose these pieces about his paintings. This particular upcoming show is one that I think will feature Chris’ ability to tell stories through images in a very dynamic and thrilling way.

The exhibit, “Face to Face – Portraits of the Infamous” will be shown at the Colonial at Main & Washington from Thursday, May 4 through Sunday, May 7. When I asked Chris about his inspiration for the subject matter, he told me he painted one just because, and that quickly turned into many, which seemed a natural fit for an exhibit.

infamous – adjective in·fa·mous \ˈin-fə-məs\

  1. 1:  having a reputation of the worst kind: an infamous traitor

  2. 2:  causing or bringing infamy: an infamous crime

  3. 3:  convicted of an offense bringing infamy

As I began to ponder the idea of infamy and look at this portrait of Johnny Cash, It started to click with me just what Chris was up to. Chris told me that this exhibit is much less about the individuals that he paints themselves, as it was the “face” of that person. Johnny Cash was a man with a tremendous gift to tell stories through song. His strong voice is definitely unmatched and completely unique. His hit “I Walk The Line” sat on Billboard’s record charts for 43 weeks and sold over 2 million copies. In 1980, he became the youngest living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he joined an elite club of performers that are in both organizations.

Cash’s infamy came in part from his “bad boy” appearance and the addiction to narcotics that he developed to keep up with his hectic, 300 shows a year schedule that he had in the 1960s. The “Man in Black” kept up his no-nonsense persona even after recovering from addiction. Despite his storied past and outwardly defiant appearance, Cash had a gift that could not go unnoticed. He was the man that, regardless of how you felt about his character, one could not deny the passion and talent that he showcased.

This piece will be sold in a silent auction in conjunction with the art exhibit as a fundraiser to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Madison, Georgia.