Aaron Cohen, title unknown (1992), oil on canvas board, 9 x 12 inches; in situ (photo courtesy Valerie Hegarty)
This short text was written upon invitation by the artist and writer Stephen Maine for his series in Hyperallergic titled "Artists Quarantine with their Art Collections."
Read full series online here:
Valerie Hegarty (Livingston Manor, New York): Since the start of the pandemic, I have been living in a mobile home in the Catskills. While my Brooklyn apartment has many artworks hung salon style, here I have only one small painting. The title is unknown, but there is stamp on the back: Aaron Cohen, Loch Sheldrake NY, ’92. It sits on a bookshelf because I like the walls blank as a respite. The little landscape was a nostalgic purchase at an antique store two years ago because it reminded me of the view from my family’s lakeside cabin in Maine, where I spent the happiest days of my childhood. I love the Marsden Hartley-esque way the scene is painted and the abstraction of the reflection that makes the composition only a few moves away from a Rothko.
The painting makes me long for those long summer days playing in the sun while my father barbecued and my mother brought out our swim towels and my little sister collected frogs in a bucket while my brother, older sister, and I practiced diving off the dock. Now when I look at the painting the yearning is more painful as my heart-tugs have turned into heartbreak over the sense of impossibility of not only going back to childhood, but back to life “the way it was.” It feels like we are experiencing an end to a different type of innocence.
Although the cabin is still in the family, my parents are elderly and no longer go. I worry about them dying from COVID-19 as I grapple with the reality that I’ll never see my friend Norma again, who died after Christmas, and my friend Patrick, who overdosed last spring. In the little painting the sun is forever rising, making the distance from here to there feel like an ever-widening abyss. We always knew there was going to be a tipping point with the environment and as I look at the painting I wonder if this is it.