About George Cochrane
American artist and graphic novelist George Cochrane was born to Douglas George Cochrane Jr. and Eleanor Bellows on August 27, 1971 on an American military base in Furt, Germany. When Cochrane was two, the family moved to Dublin, New Hampshire where his father opened “Cochrane’s Bookstore” in nearby Keene. The oldest of four children, Cochrane was a lively child, spending the majority of his time in the woods near his home. He read widely, took summer courses at Franklin Pierce College, and became involved with a group of local actors, showing an early talent for theater.
It wasn’t until high school that Cochrane’s interests shifted from the theatrical to studio arts. He spent his senior year of high school in Massachusetts at The Cambridge School of Weston where he was exposed to the high standards of observation, introspection, and imagination which characterize the visual arts. It was this exposure, accompanied by the encouragement and mentorship of actor and writer Dan Hurlin, as well as his family and friends, which launched Cochrane on an artistic journey that continues today.
Before attending college, Cochrane spent a year wandering and hitch-hiking across Europe. After living in England, Scotland, France, Holland, and Germany, he settled in Florence, Italy and took up painting. Three years later as an exchange student in the Sarah Lawrence College program in Florence, he spent a year studying Italian, painting, drawing, and printmaking and enrolled in a class at l'Università di Firenze in Art History. Cochrane received his B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 1994. He then spent the next six years working in New York City as a painter, art-handler, and assistant to such notable artists as Julian Schnabel, Alex Katz, and Keith Sonnier. He received his M.F.A. from Hunter College in 2003.
Since then, Cochrane’s paintings and drawings have been exhibited at MASS MoCA, the Tweed Museum of Art, Guild Hall, Morris Museum, Momenta Art, Repetti Gallery, and the Martin Kudlek Gallery in Germany. However, as Cochrane has continued to push his boundaries and explore his creativity, he has gradually moved away from traditional painting toward the fluid, story-driven craft of the comic book.
In 2008, Cochrane began working in collaboration with his then five-and-a-half year old daughter on Long Time Gone, a 24 chapter graphic novel which vibrantly traces, hour by hour, a day in Cochrane’s life. From his dreams to his anxieties, the challenges and rewards of raising children, flashbacks to Latin class, family vacations, artistic heaven, hell, and purgatory, Long Time Gone manages not only to tell the story of a day, but the entire lifetime of its artist. No stranger to literature and history, Cochrane’s extensive piece is as rich with tributes to the development of comic books as it is with allusions to Homer’s Odyssey, Joyce’s Ulysses, Shakespeare, Dante, Chaucer, and Bob Dylan.
In January 2015 Cochrane became the first “artist-in-residence” at Thornwillow Press in Newburgh, NY. There Cochrane will be producing, Long Time Gone, over the next five years for Open Corner. The first seven chapters, along with Fine Art prints created at Thornwillow, will be presented at the MoMA/P.S.1 NY Artist Book Fair in September, 2015.
With The Newburgh Commedia, Cochrane’s art further deepens and develops. Drawing on his time spent printmaking in Florence, his love of Italian literature and language, and set against the varied backdrop of historic Newburgh, NY, The Newburgh Commedia will consist of eighteen artist prints, each using a distinct printing technique, and culminating in a hand-lettered, facing-page edition of The Divine Comedy. As a celebration of Cochrane’s own artistic development and Thornwillow’s commitment to the enduring art of printmaking, The Newburgh Commedia promises to be a work of art as monumental as it is meaningful.
Cochrane divides his time between hand-lettering in Brooklyn and printmaking in Newburgh. He is married to Lisa Panzera, senior director of the Fergus McCaffrey Gallery in New York City. Together they have a daughter, Fiamma, now twelve, who continues to contribute her art to Long Time Gone. Cochrane is currently an associate professor of fine art at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. He and his family live in Brooklyn.
George's Artistic Process
Since beginning work in 2008 on my graphic novel Long Time Gone, my artistic practice and focus have migrated from oil on canvas to the drawn, painted, and written pages of a book. Long Time Gone is an autobiographical graphic novel, conceived as a collaborative art project with my daughter Fiamma (now 12), when she was 5 ½ years old. Modeled on Homer’s Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses, our one-day journey unfolds in 24 chapters, each representing an hour of time.
The story, a retelling of an unremarkable day in the life of an artist and his daughter, is dramatized and reinvented through the use of narrative interruptions and literary devices, such as flashbacks, dream sequences, stream of consciousness, interviews, and self-contained stories within the story.
Formally the drawings pirate a range of both “high” and “low” visual culture, interweaving images and motifs from canonical western art (Raphael, Mondrian, Guston) with the history of comics (Krazy Kat, Popeye, The Fantastic Four). Music operates as a parallel text, providing a silent soundtrack that is central to the creation of an internal structural logic that drives the story; it is represented through musical notation, quoted lyrics, and references to song titles, which form chapter/novel titles.
Through a fusion of literature, popular culture, music and art, I aim to broaden the scope of the graphic novel, transforming it into a new form of artist’s book. Simultaneously, my interests in reactivating canonical texts throughout Long Time Gone is echoed in the creation of a new illuminated manuscript of Dante’s masterwork, re-presented through the use of comic-letter font, and reimagined with visual and textual marginalia.
Currently I am working with Thornwillow Press in Newburgh, NY to produce this new facing-page manuscript version of Dante’s The Divine Comedy in celebration of the 750 anniversary of Dante’s birth. The work will be preceded by “The Newburgh Suite,” six portfolios of fine art prints to be published intermittently throughout the year. In addition, I am producing a limited edition of the first seven chapters of Long Time Gone.
The first three chapters of Long Time Gone were exhibited at Mass MOCA in 2009. Chapter four was on view at Tweed Art Museum, Duluth, Minnesota in 2010. The first of The Divine Comedy’s three canticas, Inferno, will be presented at the 2015 MoMA/P.S.1 New York Art Book Fair, along with a selection of fine art prints from “The Newburgh Suite.”
About The Newburgh Commedia
To celebrate Thornwillow Press’s 30 years of fine bookmaking, Cochrane is at work on The Newburgh Commedia, marking the 750th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s birth. The project consists of the creation of a new manuscript version of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, to be published and presented with 18 prints connecting his timeless poem to the city of Newburgh, NY. Cochrane is modeling his comic-lettered text on the earliest known manuscript, as well as early illustrated editions of Dante’s masterwork. Cochrane’s prints bring together the artwork of those early manuscripts with that of the comic and cartooning arts.
Original artwork will be exhibited in Newburgh and presented at MoMA/P.S.1 NY Artist Book Fair in September, 2015. To learn more about The Newburgh Commedia, visit georgecochrane.net or follow Cochrane’s progress via Twitter @George_Cochrane.