By Kwesi Billups
PART III. MANHOOD
My initial reaction notes to the piece while I was in the gallery:
Man knew nothing of the evils of his world. How could he have known? He casted off his Guardian in preparation for his own domination of his surroundings. In the foreground, a dying tree, poisoned and split open- reflecting the destruction of man’s optimism. Destroyed by the demons of “ suicide, intemperance, and murder.” Well at least encircled by those demons, waiting to lay claim to man’s optimism and curious demeanor, as he cries out to heaven to rescue him from the danger he could never have imagined would beset him. Although he would not allow his Guardian to guide him, man’s lasting trust in that power is all that is left to save him from succumbing to the peril surrounding him. Angel and the tempest are attention catchers.
I found the most profound element of Manhood to be the coexistence of demons and angels above man’s head. Cole would have been remiss to exclude the counterparts to his depiction of angelic beings and their influence on the experience of man on earth. Frankly, I did not even recognize the most central, and slightly discolored, clouds as demons until reading Cole’s written accompaniment for the piece.