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Christopher Cook
December 22, 2020

Art that transcends

Former Addison director uses time in quarantine to create a series of drawings
by Allyson Irish

Imagination is a powerful thing. It can transport you to distant lands, conjure up vivid memories, and remove you from the present for a while. Taking up pen and paper for the first time in nearly a decade, Christopher C. Cook tapped into his artist’s imagination this past spring to create series of pandemic-related drawings. Frustrated by the quarantine, Cook’s 30-plus drawings express not only his anger with the fast-moving disease, but also the uncertain political future of the United States, along with recollections of family, friends, and colleagues.

“You make a mark and you respond to it,” says Cook, who was director of the Addison Gallery of American Art from 1969 to 1989. “It’s memory—memory of a work of art or of experiences, anything that you can find that develops into a symbol or a shape.”

The drawings—created with a variety of special pens including Japanese brush pens and signed with the pseudonym Hal Capen—helped Cook weather a difficult time.

Cook and his wife, Julie were stuck in their small New Hampshire apartment for weeks on end. Cook used art to provide structure and a way to pass the long days. “I would sit down to draw after lunch and sometimes I’d draw for three hours. It gave me something to do and distracted from other problematic things.”

When Cook’s five children, scattered on both coasts, eventually saw the sketches, they were floored.

“We think his drawings are fantastic; they also display a mind and hands still actively engaged in art making at age 88,” says daughter Brett Cook ’72. “We have marveled at dad’s capacity to transcend the isolation of this pandemic through his creativity and courage. I am inspired by his example of making the best of things.”

The COVID Series

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Categories: Arts, Magazine, Magazine Online

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