Arden Cone
Arden Cone
Arden Cone is a painter and a writer from South Carolina. She currently lives and works in Boston, MA, and will graduate this May with her MFA in Painting from Boston University. In 2012, she received her BA in Studio Art and Spanish from Hollins University (Roanoke, VA), and, shortly thereafter, she exhibited at the Liminal Alternative Artspace (Roanoke, VA) and Nelson Gallery (Richmond, VA).

Between 2012 and 2015, Cone lived in Charleston, SC, exhibiting her paintings at the Saville Gallery (Cumberland, MD), North Charleston City Hall (North Charleston, SC) and Upstairs Artspace (Tryon, NC). She has been a resident painter at Chautauqua Institute School of Fine Arts (2012), Vermont Studio Center (2014), and Pike School of Art (2017).

In 2017, she completed the BURNAWAY Art Writers Mentorship Program and launched a blog, One South Contemporary. She was named a painting finalist for the 2017 $10,000 Arthur & Dorothy Yeck Award at Miami University (Oxford, OH) and recently exhibited her work at Tryon Painters & Sculptors (Tryon, NC).

Thesis Artist Statement, Arden Cone

The Southern soil, once virgin, then war-torn, but never mended, splits with excruciating cries. “The South will rise again!” they say, but they don’t see that it already has. It rose again long ago with an oppressive, racist ideology that surged in the years following Reconstruction and remains at work today. It took the form of public monuments—over a thousand of them across the South—erected to honor America’s misguided Confederate faction.

This body of work presents my most recent paintings, created in response to the resurfacing of neo-Confederate sentiment in America. By the time the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, took place in August of 2017, my own research into the United States’ civil war was already underway, and I had begun to introduce into my work complex narratives surrounding American Civil War memory.

It was seventeen years and four days prior to the attack in Charlottesville, not that anyone knew it, when I first watched Civil War history come to life. My family gathered around the kitchen television to witness a team of experts slowly lift a long-lost Civil War submarine, the H.L. Hunley, out of the Charleston harbor. Hundreds of spectators had gathered there to watch the event from land and sea. The news camera panned around to the crowd, eying Confederate flags whipping in the wind.

Dredging a Civil War relic from the murky waters of oblivion is an act of recovering truth, a way to secure a deeper knowledge of history, but only if it is investigated responsibly. My paintings of discarded, sunken Confederate monuments are a reverse mode of recovery. Instead of rescuing these relics from the depths, I toss them overboard. It is at this moment of freefall that I invite a pause for reflection—a suspension in the face of gravity. The enduring temporality of the painted image gives us a chance to make sense of our fraught times. I want my paintings to offer a space for contemplation, one in which reconciliation can be imagined. Ultimately—and paradoxically—sinking the physical monuments in my artwork allows their symbolic truths to surface.

Using materials such as cardboard, clay, and wire, I create sculptural maquettes that I reference for my large-scale paintings. The grand format of the canvases, which depict only small, flimsy scenes made out of studio scraps, waxes ironic, but it functions to elevate monuments’ demise to an epic status.

Each of my works mirrors the nation’s contemporary struggles, suggesting a friction between the fights to remove and preserve. Modeled clay monuments and mass-produced toy soldiers, the actors present in the paintings, imbue the scenes with a dark confusion of child’s play and wartime violence.

Racism has brutally and consistently shaped the American story, deleting the disenfranchised from its testimony. And that bronze general—astride a horse, atop a pedestal, in civic space, penetrating the red clay earth—defiles the truth each day he exists.

Through the immediate actions of sculpting and painting, I re-enact Civil War memory and trauma, twice. This time, however, there are no lies to reaffirm, only truths to be reconciled.

Thesis 50-Word Excerpt, Arden Cone

This body of work presents my most recent paintings, created in response to the resurfacing of neo-Confederate sentiment in America. Each work is an act of resistance, an effort to correct the misguided narrative that has framed American Civil War memory for over a century.

If you would like to view more of Arden's work, visit:

Arden's Website