photo by David Wright
I began my career as an illustrator in New York, creating covers for Time, New York Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and for books by Graham Greene, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Agatha Christie, Yukio Mishima, and many others. Since 1980 I have concentrated on my personal paintings and sculpture, exhibiting work in New York, on the West Coast, and in Europe.
In 2012 I began to use music and film in order to comment more quickly and directly on the state of our society.
My first short film, Gun Shop (2013), is a musical satire commenting on our nation's relationship with guns.
The film Party Line (2014) addresses governmental and corporate surveillance. It suggests that our knowledge of being observed and overheard will constrain free speech—that the chill produced by authoritarian surveillance will thwart public discussion and further erode our democracy.
The song Singing in the Dark Times was written in December 2016, a month after the presidential election. America had just taken a momentous turn—one that would affect not only social policy but also the temper of the nation. What concerned me then, and does now, is how we, individually and collectively, should respond to powerful, destructive forces. How do we hold on to our personal guidelines for decency when facing a daunting malevolence? I wanted to write about that. In my search for a central metaphor I remembered the short poem, Motto, by Bertolt Brecht:
“In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing about the dark times.”
I was thinking, too, of something that the writer Nicholas Von Hoffman said to me many years ago, “The riskiest thing we can do as writers or artists is to make certain that we are clearly understood.”
Original paintings by Alan Magee may be seen at Forum Gallery, NYC, and at Dowling Walsh Gallery, Rockland, ME.