Articles and Reviews
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2018 "Indigestion" Portland Press Herald review by Dan Kany

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2017 "Lines of Thought" Portland Press Herald review by Dan Kany

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2016 "The Promise of Tomorrow" Republican Journal review by Ethan Andrews

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2016 "Like There's No Tomorrow" and "The Promise of Tomorrow" Pen Bay Pilot review by Kay Stephens

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2015 "Flood" Seasick Magazine / Hurricane season issue review by Narciso Philistratus

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2014 Artvoices Magazine 7th Annual Winter Basel Issue interview by Ellen Caldwelll

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2014 "Parabellum" Portland Press Herald review by Dan Kany

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2014 "Parabellum" Art New England review by Carl Little

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2014 "Parabellum" Portland Press Herald review by Bob Keyes

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2014 "Parabellum" Artscope review by Suzanne Volmer

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2013 "Distress" Interview by Lisa Agostini

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2012 "CMCA Biennial Exhibition" Artscope review by Suzanne Volmer

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2012 "As High As Heaven" catalogue essay by Freddy LaFage and Karen McDonald

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2011 "Gold, God, Guns and Girls" catalogue essay by Nicholas Schroeder

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2010 "The Hellfire Story" Portland Phoenix review by Nicholas Schroeder

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2010 "The Hellfire Story" essay by Al Crichton

Books and Catalogues
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2013 "Distress" image catalog with interview

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2012 "As High As Heaven" image catalogue with essay

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2011 "Darfur at Our Doorstep" image catalog

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2011 "Gold, God, Guns and Girls" image catalogue with essay

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2010 "The Hellfire Story" image catalogue with essay

Selected Website Listings
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2019 Interview/blog post with "Gallery Closed" artists, Kenny Cole, Geoff Hargadon, Paula Lalala and Brian Reeves

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2016 "The Promise of Tomorrow" Republican Journal review by Ethan Andrews

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2015 "Flood" The Chart review by Jeffrey Ackerman

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2014 "Monhegan: The Unfailing Muse" review by Britta Konau

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2014 "Parabellum" Portland Press Herald review by Dan Kany

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2014 "Parabellum" Portland Press Herald review by Bob Keyes with video

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2009 Thoughts by "The Owl Who Laughs" Poet Chris Crittenden's blog



Since becoming president, Barack Obama remotely authorizes one drone-missile firing into Pakistan per week. According to the Long War Journal, a non-profit military tracking organization, 102 missiles have been fired into remote parts of the country this year alone, causing 699 deaths (98 percent reported to be "Al Qaeda/Taliban operatives"). This is just what we know: the country's other drone missile program is CIA-operated; its proceedings are entirely covert.



"The Hellfire Story" is a tough pill to swallow. Consisting of 300 text-based placards and frames separated into two sections within SPACE Gallery, Bangor artist Kenny Cole's work contains vital artistic interest without exactly being fit for full consumption. In the foyer, 125 framed brush-and-ink images track the drone missile from its early 1960s inception to its deployment today. With droll, caustic wit and a fastidious hand, Cole's images ironically commemorate these milestones according to a series of politicized stylizations. His work doesn't present information as much as bludgeon his audience with it. This artistic bombardment presents obvious parallels with the subject matter, but the sheer volume of the work contains another virtue still.

To borrow an allegory from Borges, the Internet is the Library of Babel of our era. It contains tons of relevant information, but that information is only useful if you know exactly how to look for it. In similarly overwhelming fashion, "The Hellfire Story" replicates this trick. Each frame is flush with boring, legalistic text that either wraps around or obscures some distracting semi-relevant cartoon drawing. Though rendered in legible brushstrokes, Cole's text is utterly unmediated, lacking punctuation and line breaks. Frankly, it is a chore to absorb. Despite knowledge that it offers useful information about national practices of contentious ethics, it's as headache-inducing as reading the customized MySpace page of your reclusive uncle.

As if shining a light into his own labyrinth, Cole has circled (non-lineally, Chutes-and- Ladders-style) letters in each frame to form words that parse each image to its pithy, bare-bones message. In a piece detailing test missile firing in California circa 1980, Cole circles "ANATHEMA," "TORN," and "NUT." In an image containing dozens of unmanageable words bifurcated by a blood-red thermometer, Cole has formed the phrase, "DEMENTED PIRATE OGRE PARTIES." At its most base, it's an obnoxious assertion of subjectivity telling us how to interpret otherwise unremarkable art.

And therein lies its genius. In a universe where devastating and incriminating facts are irrepressibly available in abundance, it suddenly depends on a subjective overhaul, a willful assertion of ethical belief to employ those facts to fit cultural standards. To take a recent example: by revealing as he did in his recent memoir that he authorized water boarding and other forms of torture on Gitmo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, George Bush somehow didn't indict himself. Neither does simple public awareness that he violated international criminal law indict him, nor does that public awareness, apparently, strengthen or validate international law. In the vast field of ethical relativity, decoders and arbiters are necessary, and Cole, however importunately, is doing just that. An argument could be made that "The Hellfire Story" aestheticizes war, that Cole is translating the liberal sympathies of his audience into accolade and personal gain the same way the US government channels public funds into private-sector war initiatives. The 175 wall-mounted placards in the gallery room arouse these sympathies with a






somewhat tacky unsubtlety, detailing missile tallies in Pakistan on one side with Biblical text on the other.

Principal among the many ethical questions "The Hellfire Story" raises is this: if robotics replace our human military (though not our opponents), will our moral and psychological aversion to war be similarly replaced? Without that aversion, is Obama's decision to fire missiles into Pakistan still an act of war, or is it more akin to "poking" Kenny Cole on Facebook? In his exhibit, Cole doesn't extend an answer. Our world raises innumerable ethical quandaries; Cole's work merely demands that they be considered. In the meantime, SPACE Gallery will host numerous films, rock shows, and dance parties within the walls of this aestheticized mausoleum. Whether or not the public cares to see "The Hellfire Story", or enjoys its work, is irrelevant — it still exists.



Nicholas Schroeder | Portland Phoenix | November 24, 2010



2010 "The Hellfire Story" Portland Phoenix review by Nicholas Schroeder