Adger Cowans

“Not only is Adger Cowans one of America’s finest photographers, he is, as well, one of its finest painters. Through film and paint his keen, sensitive eye hauntingly reveals things, places and moments that make up the bonfires of our lives; those shadows we live and swim in as we grind out the DRAMA of everyday existence.  Often such talent as his abided by the rules set by others. But his individualism sets him apart – simply because he follows his own convictions. His photography and paintings are possessed with certainties and reasons and one has a thirst to see more.  They go as far as IMAGERY can go without really speaking. Mr. Cowans has acquired the freedom to master himself. And obviously he became free from the moment he chose to be.

- Gordon Parks

“A photograph is supposed to be a fairly accurate representation of what the eye sees.  Yet we do an injustice to our own perceptions if we are only concerned with the usual facts of life.  In this exhibit we see not only what is apparent in the splendid water studies by Adger Cowans, but also the subtle relationships and nuances that give them such uniqueness.

Artists have always been fascinated with the effects of water.  I think of Turner and those Chinese classical masters who found a source of artistic energy in concord with the rhythms of great waters. In see this same unison, Cowans has focused his inspiration for some surprising creations.  I see color, for example, in his black and white images. I see what is for me, a torso of a swimmer. In another work, it appears that honeybees have produced a cone. Yet I am completely aware these studies are taken of an ever-changing aquatic  world. Also, I am just as sure that the artist was primarily concerned with abstract counter points of light and shade; and certainly, the photographs can be appreciated in that respect.

When I first saw these water images of Adger’s, it occurred to me that an artist might be inspired bye certain phenomena that may be artistically meaningless to everyone else.  In Haystacks, Monet found something to illuminate his observations of the play of light and color during varying hours of the day. So too, in water, still water, running water, even frozen water, Cowans invites us to see a universe in microcosm.  Undoubtedly there are obvious reasons why Adger chose to depict these singular convergences of water; it is possible also that other less conscious necessities directed them to this most important of the four great elements. Is it not water that supports all life?  Indeed, in many cultures it is symbolically equated with the renewal of life. It is really difficult to ascertain with certainty the meanings artists ascribe to their works. So often the artist’s interpretation is not logically tied to his or her work. Whatever affinities directed out poet-photographer to immerse himself in the waters of life and art, as with all good artists, he has dealt convincingly with these mysteries of creation.

The success of these photographs need not be explained, rather, they are a cause for celebration.  After all, the power of art is irresistible.”

- Romare Bearden