VAP2020-Q4 Words and Pictures

Intimacies in absentia: Cole Bourgeois.

The work of Cole Bourgeois constitutes an investigation into intimacy, utilizing color, space, and the energy as co-conspirators. In her work, one is first taken by the strong use of black, often occupying a large portion of the work, if not all of it. We often see this blackness intersticed by bright, colorful fruits floating cosmically yet concretely in space. A halo often accompanies — cluing us into setting, or piquing the intensity in the work. In a more recent work, Bourgeois dedicates more space to the blackness – rendering the canvas entirely in black, allowing us to swim in its shades of color. Within this space, we notice brushstrokes coalesce into forms in proximity. In each work, Bourgeois constructs intimate spaces in which we become aware of our own presence.

Bourgeois is interested in how intimacy is constructed spatially, and socially, and how these constructions are dynamic. Nonetheless, we rely on self-knowledge, communication, and agency to participate in intimacy, as we cannot have intimacy without ourselves. At interpersonal levels we see the notion of intimacy influenced by individuals – family, partners, leaders. Scaling up, we see institutions influence patterns of intimacy (such as religion), which begin to codify our ability to know the self, to communicate, and to have agency. Taken together we find a system which forms our interactions, constructs our physical spaces of intimacy, and lays foundation for the energies we bring to intimate moments at any scale. 

Bourgeois’ paintings are windows through which we can view these systems. As viewers, Bourgeois situates us to become acutely aware of our own power within this system of intimacy. The visual language Bourgeois uses is a universal one: an intention of this work was to invite discussion of  intimacy across lines of gender and sexuality. Herein is a universal truth that is central to Bourgeois’ work: we all experience and enter spaces – be they on an institutional or intimate scale – differently. To approach intimacy too formally would inherently box out many identities. As such, the works seek to become a conduit of understanding – across scales and identities aiming to be as inclusive as possible. Bourgeois’ early choice to present blackness as a void reveals itself to be complementary to this mission. As when in absence, when alone, we can see the intimacies we hold within ourselves. The shades and colors that comprise the blackness in Bourgeois’ recent work translate to the condition of universal difference.

About the artist: Cole Bourgeouis studied under the SMFA and Tufts University Fine Arts Combined Degree Program in an interdisciplinary structure, with a concentration in painting and art history. Her website is:

About the writer: Peter Rowane Tresnan is a queer multimedia artist and educator in New York City. He uses figuration and education to explore identity, queerness,  liberation, and radical love. The imaginary and mythological act as engines for creation and world-creation. There is a narrative thread in much of his work. His website is: